Genetics and the environment play an intricate role in the initiation and development of cell dysfunction leading to cancer, and oral cancer is no different.
It is probably not all too surprising that tobacco use, including smoking and chewing tobacco, is the leading environmental risk factor in developing oral cancer. However, it may surprise some that alcohol consumption, while not as strong of a risk factor, is also implicated in oral cancer development. While not typically seen often in the United States, the betel nut is a lesser known protagonist to oral cancer.
Certain viruses, most notably the human papillomavirus (HPV) can also raise a person’s risk for developing oral cancer. HIV has also been implicated in developing a particular tumor known as Kaposi’s sarcoma.
Finally, increased sun exposure has been tied to oral cancer development. Certain cancers, including melanoma, often associated with the skin can also be seen on the lips, in the mouth, etc. For this reason, it is beneficial to protect the lips along with other areas of the face from too much sun exposure.
- from Dr. Tim Jernberg