Top 7 Oral Cancer Risk Factors

Exact cause of oral cancer is still not known. However, research has brought forward a list of risk factors. They can be classified as genetic and epigenetic factors (other than genetic). The most important risk factor for oral cancer is changing lifestyles or trends. Lifestyles are behavioral traits which are repeated a number of times and not occasionally. A detrimental lifestyle can prove dangerous with far reaching effects.

Here are the 7 oral cancer risk factors –

  • Tobacco

Tobacco consumption in any form is harmful to our body.  Tobacco consumption alone, is responsible for millions of death word wide annually. Tobacco contains many carcinogenic substances which cause mutation in DNA replication and form cancerous growths. Tobacco causes oral, larynx, pharynx and lung cancers.

  • Betel nut/ areca nut

Betel nut / areca nut chewing is associated with many precancerous lesions like leukoplakia, erythroplakia and oral sub mucous fibrosis. Tobacco consumption along with betel quid placement in the mouth is responsible for development of oral cancers. Reactive oxygen species, methylating agents and some reactive metabolic ingredients in betel nut are responsible for DNA mutations.

  • Alcohol

Alcohol has been found to  induce cancer of the liver,larynx, pharynx, esophagus and oral cavity . Direct isolated contribution of alcohol in oral cancer is still unclear but it is a potential risk factor if consumed along with tobacco. Alcohol contains many ingredients which  proven  carcinogens. 

  • Diet and nutrition

Current trend in food industry is that of high fat and sugar intake and  which has caused a considerable low intake of fruits and vegetables.Packed foo and instant foods are on a rise, containing cheaper and carcinogenic ingredients like preservatives, coloring agents, food substitutes etc. Consistent over spicy food with lots of  chillies can induce precancerous condition likeoral sub mucous fibrosis which has a tendency to convert  to oral cancer. Non-vegetarian food, especially red meat, is also an emerging risk factor for oral cancers. Continous eting of foods which are too hot may also cause cancer.

  • Dental factors

Faulty dental restorations or sharp broken tooth can cause recurrent injuries to surrounding tissues like tongue and cheeks from inside. Recurrent non healing injuries may get converted to oral cancers with time. This condition coexisting  with other above mentioned risk factors  can contribute to oral cancers.

  • Infections

Viral infections by Human Herpes Virus (HHV), Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) have tendency to induce oral cancers. These viruses have capacity to stay in latent phase in many body tissue like skin, gums, intestine etc. Fungal infections like Candidiasis  may at times superimpose  on leukoplakia lesions which increases malignancy risk. Immunosuppression by HIV can leads to many cancers like Kaposi’s sarcoma and Lymphadenopathy.

  • Genetic

Genetic factor in developing cancers is most important factor. A longterm tobacco chewer may not have oral cancer but it may present in a short term tobacco chewer. This is due to genetic factors. Some people have preexisting genetic risk factors, those get triggered after exposure to  risk factors. This triggering factor could be any smoking, tobacco, alcohol etc. or coexistence of many risk factors.         The best way to prevent oral cancer is stoppage of any habit which is a risk factor for it. If you have any history of or presently have habits like smoking, tobacco chewing you need to visit dentist regularly to know the status of your oral health. Stoppage of such habits in early stages could be beneficial in prevention of oral cancer.


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