You might not even notice, but every time you see your dentist, you get a quick and painless cancer screening. Dentists are often the first to identify early signs of common head and neck cancers, and the exams are part of your bi-annual cleaning visit.
During a regular exam, dentists used gloved hands to check your lips and face, gently palpate the neck and jaw area, and visually examine the top and bottom of your tongue. During the exam, they also look at the larynx, sinuses, and salivary glands.
Alcohol and tobacco raise your cancer risk
Men past the age of 40 have the greatest risk of mouth, tongue or throat cancer diagnoses. Tobacco products and alcohol use both increase your risk of oral cancer, but the combination of the two factors is the riskiest category.
Alcohol consumption is a major risk factor
Drinking alcohol raises your risk of getting cancer of the mouth, throat, larynx, and esophagus. It doesn?t matter if you?re drinking red wine, beer, or liquor ? all types of alcoholic drinks are linked with cancer. Drinking beverages containing alcohol is a major risk factor for certain head and neck cancers, particularly cancers of the mouth, throat, and larynx (voice box). Drinking also raises the risk for esophageal squamous cell carcinoma.
Drink less alcohol to lower your cancer risk
People who drink 3.5 drinks or more daily have a risk two to three times greater of developing those kinds of cancer than non-drinkers. Research shows that the more drinks with alcohol you consume, particularly the more you drink regularly over time, the higher risk you face of developing cancers associated with alcohol.
Tell your dentist about these symptoms
Call for an appointment with your dentist right away if you experience lumpy or thick patches of skin in your mouth or throat, red or white lesions in your mouth, a sore throat or hoarseness that won?t go away, or problems chewing, swallowing, or speaking. Point out any symptoms, numbness, or tingling you?ve experienced during your appointment.
Any sore, irritation or strange patch of skin that doesn?t resolve within two weeks on its own should be considered suspect and worthy of seeing a medical professional.
Link between alcohol and cancer risk
The human body is complex, and genetic variations can make you more or less disposed to certain kinds of cancer. But the increased risk of cancer from alcohol is well-documented.
Your body metabolizes ethanol in alcoholic drinks into a chemical called acetaldehyde, which damages the DNA in your cells and prevents your body from repairing the damage. When a cell?s DNA is damaged, it can begin growing out of control.
Drinking alcohol can impair your ability to break down and absorb nutrients that might otherwise protect you from cancer risk, like Vitamin A, B, C, D, and E, and nutrients in the vitamin B complex.
Check Your Mouth
Your dentist is part of your overall health team and does more for you than filling your cavities or cleaning your teeth. Dentists regularly perform oral cancer screenings to detect mouth cancer or precancerous lesions that may lead to cancer as early as possible, when it?s most likely treatable. Your dental exam could save your life.