Oral cancer is cancer of the mouth or throat. This year, an estimated 53,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer and more than 10,900 will die of the disease. Oral cancer is twice as common in men as in women.
Not using tobacco and not drinking alcohol in excess can prevent most oral cancer. However, one in four people diagnosed with oral cancer has no risk factors. It’s important to see your dentist regularly for screenings.
In 2012, there were nearly 40,000 new cases of cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx diagnosed in the United States and nearly 9,000 deaths. The 5-year survival rate for these cancers is about 59 percent. Mortality from oral cancer is nearly twice as high in some minorities (especially black males) as it is in whites. Preventing high risk behaviors, that include cigarette, cigar or pipe smoking, use of smokeless tobacco, and excessive use of alcohol are critical in preventing oral cancers. Early detection is key to increasing the survival rate for these cancers. Oral human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted disease, can cause cancers in the back of the throat, called “oropharyngeal cancers.” More research is needed to determine whether HPV itself causes oropharyngeal cancers, or if other factors (such as smoking or chewing tobacco) interact with HPV to cause these cancers.
Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and newer targeted therapies may be used alone or in combination.