Tomorrow, Saturday 4 February, the World Cancer DayThe World Health Organisation (WHO), the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the Union Internationale Contre le Cancer (UICC). According to the data provideds for the Asociación Española Contra el Cáncer (AECC) in 2021, 285,530 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in Spain, and the Region of Murcia became the third autonomous community in the territory in which the incidence of the disease grew the most year-on-year. Of these, tumours malignant diseases of the oral cavity accounted for 2'77% of the total.
The incidence of oral cancer varies throughout the world, while in the United States or Europe it is around 2 and 41 PT3T (as in the example of Spain given above), in less developed Asian countries it can account for up to 25-301 PT3T of the total number of tumours. Like other types of cancer, for example lung cancer, it has clearly differentiated risk factors, such as smoking and alcohol consumption. The synergism between the two results in a risk increase of up to 13 times that of non-drinkers and non-smokers, according to the data handled by the AECC.
Although oral cancer has almost always affected men to a large extent, the difference ratio has been progressively decreasing, due to the increase in tobacco and alcohol consumption in women. In addition, an increase in the occurrence of malignant tumours of the oral cavity has been found in young women that is not directly related to smoking. With regard to age, despite being a tumour whose average age of onset is above 50, in recent years the number of cases has increased in patients aged 40 and even younger.
The role of prevention
At Vélez and Lozano we have always followed the maxim of prevention rather than treatment in relation to our area of action. Thus, just as we have always stressed the importance of a good brushing technique and good hygiene habits in general in order to avoid the appearance of more serious pathologies, we would also like to offer you six basic tips to prevent the appearance of malignant oral tumours, many of which can also be extended to other types of cancer.
- Increase your fruit and vegetable intake.
- Cut down on tobacco
- Limit alcohol consumption to a minimum
- Protect ourselves and limit sun exposure, especially during the summer months.
- Getting our dental check-ups as often as possible
And now, a digression. Although these first four tips could be summarised as "lead a healthy lifestyle", here are some enlightening facts. According to AECC estimates, up to 80% of new cases of oral cancer could be avoided by eliminating tobacco use and reducing alcohol intake. In fact, if a smoker cut down the habit, this risk would decrease by up to 35% 1-4 years after quitting and 80% after 20 years.
Furthermore, adequate fruit and vegetable consumption has been associated with a significant decrease in the risk of developing oral cancer, and the benefits of sport on physical health and disease prevention are well known to the general public and have been written about at length in hundreds of blogs.
Regarding the sixth tip, also according to the same data, in early stages of oral cancer (known as I and II) the survival rate is up to 75% at five years, while in advanced stages (III and IV) this rate drops to 20-30% at five years.
The average five-year survival rate in Spain is 50 to 60%, and despite the advances in the therapeutic modalities available to combat the disease, the figure has not improved in recent years, as has been the case with other types of cancer. This is due to the delay in diagnosing the cancerous lesson, which in 60% of cases is detected in advanced stages.
Hence the fundamental role of the dentist and of check-ups in dental clinics. A routine dental examination is able to identify incipient lesions that may, for one reason or another, be suspicious of malignancy.
What kind of lesions can be symptoms of oral cancer?
- Ulcers on the mucosa of the oral cavity or oropharynx that do not heal more than three weeks after injury
- Fast-growing lesions with everted edges
- Oral swelling that persists for more than three weeks
- Tooth mobility not associated with periodontal disease
- Potentially malignant lesions, such as red or white patches on the mucosa