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When it comes to your health, ignorance is never bliss. And with oral cancer, one point that’s crucial to be clear on is this: regular dental checkups that include oral cancer screenings can help prevent a disease that’s easily treatable yet otherwise deadly. April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. In honor of the occasion, here are some quick facts everyone should know.

Early Detection Is Key

A diagnosis cannot be made during a dental examination as oral cancer can only be diagnosed with a biopsy. But your dentist can identify suspicious-looking areas or growths for further evaluation. And that’s just one reason (albeit a big one) for the importance of regular dental checkups!

Here are some oral cancer facts to consider:

  • Tobacco use in all its forms is number one on the list of risk factors in individuals over 50.*
  • Combining tobacco with heavy alcohol use increases risk, as the two act synergistically.1
  • Recent studies show that about 70% of cancers of the oropharynx (middle of the throat behind the mouth) may be linked to HPV.2
  • Repeated and prolonged sun exposure can cause lip cancer. so be sure to protect yourself by frequent application of a high-SPF lip block3
  • A diet low in fruits and vegetables can increase the risk. (How much is enough? The USDA recommends filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal.4)

Look for more posts about oral cancer this month. And if it’s been a while since you’ve had a dental checkup, here’s one more reason to not put it off another day!