Part of living a healthy lifestyle is being aware of what you can do to prevent illness. Prevention is worth a pound of cure, they say, and they are correct. Read today’s article by guest blogger, Bonnie Coberly, for her top 5 ways to prevent oral cancer.
Despite new studies and advancements in oral cancer treatment, the survival rate remains remarkably low, because most people discover the condition too late. This year alone the Oral Cancer Foundation predicts that close to 43,000 Americans will be diagnosed with some form of oral cancer, which affects any part of the mouth, including the lips, tongue, cheeks and throat. Of those diagnosed, approximately 8,000 will die from the condition — nearly one person per hour, every hour of the day.
The good news is that oral cancer is both largely preventable and, when detected early, highly treatable. Here are five things you can do to help minimize your risk for oral cancer.
1. Say no to tobacco.
If you use tobacco, quitting can significantly reduce your chances of getting oral cancer. That’s because cigarettes and other types of smokeless tobacco, such as snuff and chewing tobacco, are the strongest risk factors for oral cancer. Putting an end to your tobacco habits now will not only lessen your risk for oral cancer, it can also help reduce your likelihood of getting other types of cancer, lung disease or heart disease.
2. Eat a well balanced diet.
The foods you put in your body also play a significant role in your fight to prevent oral cancer. Many studies have found that there is a strong correlation between a diet low in fruits and vegetables and an increased risk for cancers of the oral cavity. Conversely, plant-based, whole food diets have been linked to lower cancer incidences. The American Cancer Society recommends eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily; avoiding refined grains and sugars; limiting consumption of red meats; and choosing foods that help maintain a healthy weight. Your healthy diet combined with exercise can help keep your immune system strong to ward off cancers and other serious health conditions.
3. Drink alcohol in moderation.
Research has found that you also have a greater risk of developing oral cancer if you drink alcohol excessively. In fact, roughly 70 percent of those diagnosed with oral cancer are heavy drinkers. Like smoking, this risk increases with the frequency and duration of time alcohol is consumed. When heavy drinking is combined with smoking, a person has a substantially higher chance of developing oral cancer in their lifetime. The American Cancer Society advises that men should limit their alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day and women no more than one drink per day to lessen the risk of developing cancer.
4. Practice sun safety.
We all know that spending too much time in the sun without wearing sunscreen can increase our likelihood of developing skin cancer. But did you know your lips are at risk, too? Many SPF lip balms are available which makes it easy to protect your lips from the sun’s harmful rays throughout the day. Avoiding the sun’s highest rays in the middle of the day, wearing a hat and seeking shade can also help reduce your risk of skin cancer.
5. Routinely examine your mouth and visit your dentist.
One of the best ways to prevent oral cancer and identify problems early is to routinely examine your mouth for warning signs. It takes just a few minutes, but it could save your life — many symptoms of oral cancer are presented early on if you know what to look for. Talk to your dentist right away if you notice any abnormal or persistent changes in your mouth, such as:
- A sore in the mouth that doesn’t heal or bleeds easily
- Whitish or reddish patches on the lining of your mouth
- A lump or thickening of the skin in the mouth
- A change in the way your teeth fit together or loose-fitting dentures
- Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
- Numbness in the mouth
- Earaches, chronic sore throat or jaw pain
- Difficulty speaking or a change in your voice
It is also important that you visit your dentist at least twice a year for cleanings and check-ups, as your dentist can also be a first line of defense in discovering oral cancer. During routine exams, dentists can identify abnormalities in the mouth in their earliest possible stages, which is key to avoiding the life-threatening implications of oral cancer.
Oral cancer claims thousands of lives every year. But the good news is this: When detected early, oral cancer has a very high survival rate and is highly curable. Improving your overall awareness about the condition and making necessary lifestyle changes now can help you reduce your risk for oral cancer while promoting an overall healthier you.
About the Author
Bonnie Coberly is a health counselor and Certified Health Counselor at Natural Horizons Wellness Centers. Natural Horizons Wellness Centers offers services in oral health, addiction abuse, and weight loss.
Isn’t it interesting that most cancer prevention tips are the same as healthy living tips?