03 August 2006

Smoke and drink and up goes the risk!

Oral cancer is a malignant growth that affects any part of the oral cavity, including the lips, upper or lower jaw, tongue, gums, cheeks, and throat. The first symptoms are usually a red or white patch or a lump anywhere in the mouth that lasts for more than a month, or a sore that bleeds easily or does not heal. Symptoms such as difficulty in chewing, swallowing or moving the tongue and jaw come later.

The leading causes of mouth cancer are cigarette, cigar, or pipe smoking and the use of smokeless tobacco in any form, such as plug, leaf, and snuff, and heavy alcohol consumption. The most popular practice with adolescent and young adult males is that of "dipping snuff' where a moist tobacco powder, is placed between the cheek and gum and the nicotine and other carcinogens are then absorbed directly through the skin. The combination of smoking and drinking are a particularly lethal duo. Cigarette smoke contains carcinogens that cause mutations and changes in cells that generate the cancer formation, and like lung cancer, oral cancer usually develops in older people.

While most people are aware that smoking is a major factor in mouth cancer not everyone appreciates that heavy drinking is also a risk factor. Oral cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the world and at least 30,000 new cases of oral and oral pharyngeal cancers are diagnosed each year and are more common in men over age 40.

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