Each year in the United States, more than 21,000 men and 9,000 women are diagnosed with lip and oral cancer. Lip and oral cancer is a type of cancer that forms in tissues of the lips, oral cavity (the mouth) or the oropharynx (the part of the throat at the back of the mouth). Most patients diagnosed with this disease are over 60 years old.
The oral cavity includes the following:
- Hard palate (the roof of the mouth)
- Gingiva (gums)
- Retromolar trigone (the small area behind the wisdom teeth)
- The front two-thirds of the tongue
- Buccal mucosa (the lining of the inside of the cheeks)
- Floor (bottom) of the mouth under the tongue
- Soft palate and uvula (the muscle back portion of the roof of the mouth)
- Salivary glands (glands that make saliva)
Risk Factors for Lip and Oral Cancers
Tobacco and alcohol use are the two main factors that seem to affect the risk of developing lip and oral cavity cancer. Most patients diagnosed with this disease are over 60 years old. Always consult your doctor if you think you may be at risk for cancer.
Risk factors for lip and oral cavity cancer include the following:
- Using tobacco products of any type
- Heavy alcohol use
- For women: having more than three drinks on any day or more than seven drinks per week
- For men: have more than four drinks on any day or more than 14 drink per week
- Overexposure to natural sunlight or artificial sunlight (such as from tanning beds) without UV protection
- Being male
- Being infected with human papillomavirus (HPV)
If you have risk factors it does not mean that you will definitely develop cancer. And at the same time, having no risk factors present is not a guarantee that you won't develop a type of lip or oral cancer. That’s why it’s important to know how to spot signs and symptoms.
Visit the National Cancer Institute where this information and more can be found about lip and oral cancer or ask your cancer care team questions about your individual situation.