Chewing over a main cause of oral cancers

Do any of the men in your life chew tobacco? Do you? (Few women do, but I don’t want to leave anyone out here.) Smokeless tobacco dramatically increases the risk for oral cancer, which makes it a habit worth breaking — hard though that may be.

You might not be familiar with oral cancer, but it’s a growing problem that can affect all the areas of the mouth and even the sinuses and throat. Men face twice the risk of developing oral cancer, which can be life-threatening. Men who smoke or chew tobacco are at a hugely increased risk:

  • Those who smoke cigarettes, pipes or cigars are six times more likely to develop oral cancers.
  • Users of smokeless tobacco are 50 times more likely to develop oral cancers.

50 times more likely? That’s a shocking figure. Then again, smokeless tobacco — dip, chew or snuff — contains 28 known cancer-causing agents. Cancer is a big threat to those who use it, but the stuff wreaks havoc on a mouth in other ways. It is tied to leukoplakia, a precancerous lesion that shows up as a white patch on the soft tissue of the mouth. It also is linked to gum disease and tooth decay.

Your dentist conducts an oral screening exam as part of routine visits. He or she feels for lumps and looks for irregular tissue, sores or discoloration. The symptoms of oral cancer include signs you’d expect, like tissue changes, bleeding, numbness or tenderness. They also include difficulty speaking, ear pain and dramatic weight loss. Find out more about oral cancers through St.Vincent Indianapolis Hospital Cancer Care.

I know nicotine addiction is an extremely tough habit to break. If you or any of the men in your life are using smokeless tobacco, though, the reasons to quit are extremely compelling. Did I mention that chewing tobacco makes you 50 times more likely to develop oral cancers? 50 times. My goodness.

If you or someone you love needs help quitting, St. Vincent has a great program to help — without guilt. (Find out about it here.)

If you have questions about lung cancer or quitting smoking — or any other health concern — you can call 317-338-4-HER to talk to a registered nurse or use this form to talk to me directly.

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