Wednesday, April 9, 2014

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

Oral and pharyngeal (oropharyngeal) cancers kill approximately 100 Coloradans a year, with incidence expected to rise, based on national trends. Close to 43,250 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year, and only slightly more than half will be alive in 5 years. Many of the risk factors, such as excessive alcohol use, tobacco use, poor nutrition and Human Papilloma Virus 16 (HPV16) infections, are avoidable.

Orapharyngeal cancers include cancer of the lip, tongue, and mouth and oropharynx cancers involve the posterior part of the mouth, the tonsils, and base of the tongue. Symptoms include a sore throat, pain, tenderness or numbness in mouth or lips, difficulty chewing, swallowing and speaking, earaches, hoarseness, enlarged lymph nodes, pain when swallowing and unexplained weight loss. Some persons have no signs or symptoms, as with the HPV16 strain that causes oral and cervical cancers. 

Some facts about oral cancer:
• The death rate for oralpharyngeal cancer is higher than some other common cancers, including cervical cancer and skin cancer.
• HPV16 is contributing more to the incidence rate of oropharyngeal cancers, particularly in the posterior part of the mouth (the oropharynx, the tonsils, the base of tongue areas) than oral cancers overall.
• Nationally, HPV related oropharynx cancer is expected to surpass the number of cervical cancers by 2020.
• Overall, 10.5 adults per 100,000 will develop oral cancer.
• Oral cancer rates are significantly higher for males than females and higher for minorities than

Prevention and Detection: Avoid high risk behaviors, make regular dental visits to improve the chances that any suspicious changes in your oral health will be diagnosed early, and ask your medical and dental provider about the HPV vaccine.

For more information on the increasing rates of oropharyngeal cancer caused by HPV, see:

For additional information, visit:

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