Tobacco and alcohol use can affect the risk of developing oral cancer.

Anything that increases the chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. People who think they may be at risk should discuss this with their doctor. Risk factors for oral cancer include the following:

  • Using tobacco products (includes cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and smokeless and chewing tobacco).
  • Heavy alcohol use.
  • Chewing betel nuts.
  • Being infected with a certain type of human papillomavirus (HPV).
  • Being exposed to sunlight (lip cancer only).
  • Being male.

Having regular visits to your dentist and oral examinations greatly increases your chance of surviving an oral cancer or disease.  Approximately 43,250 people in the U.S. will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer this year. It is crucial to have your oral checkups as dentists are generally the first line of defense against oral cancer, through the process of early discovery.