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World Cancer Day: Can oral cancer affect non-smokers? Causes, preventive measures and early detection health news


Oral cancer, a silent enemy, manifests in the oral cavity, affecting areas such as the lips, tongue and throat. Its insidious nature lies in its often overlooked early symptoms, from persistent mouth sores to difficulty swallowing. In Delhi, where lifestyle factors play an important role, awareness becomes paramount. It is very important to highlight preventive measures such as regular dental check-ups and cessation of tobacco use.

In a conversation with Zee News English, Dr. Ashish Gupta, USA trained, American Board-certified Medical Oncologist, Chief of Medical Oncology, Unique Hospital Cancer Center, Dwarka India shares how oral cancer affects even non-smokers and about preventive care.

Although many people know that smoking can cause mouth cancer, it is not the only cause. We have seen many patients who have never smoked who are developing this type of cancer. Let’s see what those reasons are and how we can stay protected.

1. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV): Certain high-risk types of HPV, such as HPV-16, are associated with oral cancer. You can contract this virus through activities such as oral sex or close contact with an infected person. HPV-related oral cancer is becoming more common among nonsmokers. This virus also causes other cancers in women such as cervical cancer, rectal cancer, penile cancer, vulvar and vaginal cancer. The HPV vaccine can prevent this cancer.

2. Alcohol consumption: Drinking large amounts of alcohol may increase the risk of mouth cancer in nonsmokers. Even if you don’t smoke, heavy drinking can be harmful. It is important to note that drinking alcohol and smoking together is more risky.

3. Diet: A diet low in fruits and vegetables, which contain protective nutrients, may increase the risk of oral cancer in nonsmokers. Eating a balanced diet can help reduce the risk.

4. Family history: Some non-smokers may have genes or a family history that makes them more likely to develop mouth cancer.

5. Persistent burning: If your mouth is very irritated, perhaps from poorly fitting dentures or dental appliances, it can increase the risk of oral cancer for nonsmokers.

6. Environmental Factors: Prolonged sun exposure without sun protection is a known cause of lip cancer, a type of mouth cancer. Use sunscreen

Why early detection of cancer is important?

Regular dental check-ups are vital because dentists are often the first to spot any symptoms. Finding oral cancer at an early stage can make treatment more successful.

We all need to be aware of the various factors that can lead to oral cancer and take steps to prevent it. By staying informed and taking action, we can work together to reduce the number of non-smokers diagnosed with oral cancer and save lives.