Men face twice the risk of developing oral cancer as women, and men who are over
age 50 face the greatest risk.
Risk factors for the development of oral cancer include:
Smoke any form of tobacco – cigarettes, cigars and pipes, as well as bidis (Indian
cigarettes) or hand-rolled cigarette . How long a person has used tobacco is more
important in causing cancer than the actual amount of tobacco used. For example,
the longer a person uses tobacco, the greater the chance of developing mouth cancer.
Smokeless tobacco users. Users of dip, snuff, or chewing tobacco products like such
as betel quid and paan, gutka, khani etc are 50 times more likely to develop cancers
of the cheek, gums, and lining of the lips. The chemicals that cause the cancer
can also spread elsewhere inside the mouth via saliva, making the entire mouth prone
Excessive consumption of alcohol. Oral cancers are about six times more common in
drinkers than in nondrinkers.
- Family history of cancer.
Human papillomavirus (HPV). – this virus can cause cancer in a part of your throat
at the back of your mouth (called your oropharynx) or Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell
Have a weakened immune system – people who have HIV/AIDS, or who are taking medicines
that weaken their immune system, are more likely to develop mouth cancer
- Constant irritation of the gums or cheek by sharp teeth or dentures.
Eating a poor diet containing few fruits and vegetables or limited amounts of vitamins
A or C
- Eating a lot of salty fish, often found in Chinese food
It is important to note that over 25% of all oral cancers occur in people who do
not smoke and who only drink alcohol occasionally.
Oral cancer is not caused by one thing, but certain factors increase its risk. Factors
include smoking, chewing tobacco or using snuff, drinking excessive alcohol, and
chewing betel nut, gutka or khaini – all these increase the risk of developing oral
cancer. This risk of oral cancer is even higher when people have more than one or
more of these unhealthy habits. People who both smoke and drink heavily are estimated
to be 35 times as likely to develop oral cancer as people who never smoke or drink.
Infections of the mouth with the human papillomavirus (HPV) may also increase the
risk of oral cancer. For some, oral cancer develops without any of these risks.
People that have had head and neck cancer in the past may also have an increased
risk of oral cancer.