In the past, oral cancer was thought to mainly affect older men with a lifetime of tobacco use. And it’s true that oral cancer is twice as common in men as in women, and lifestyle choices play a role. However, there has been a surprising rise in cases of oral cancer in younger people. Here’s what to know:
- Why should young people get screened? Since oral cancer is generally more common in older people, young people are not screened as frequently. However, oral cancer is becoming more and more common at younger ages, and early detection can significantly increase your chances of successful treatment. A screening only takes a few minutes and there’s no reason not to have it done during your annual dental exam.
- Why is it becoming more common in young people? Researchers have found that since 1984, there has been a positive correlation between the increase of human papillomavirus (HPV) and oral cancer. In fact, each year 33,000 new cases of cancer are found in parts of the body where HPV is found too. HPV can also cause other types of cancer, most commonly cervical cancer in women.
- What can you do? In addition to getting screened every year, it is recommended that preteen and teenage boys and girls get the HPV vaccination to protect against HPV infection. Women over age 30 should also consider getting an HPV test done.
Be sure to ask for a simple, 5-minute oral cancer screening at your next dentist appointment.