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Oral Cancer: symptoms, causes and risk factors

We know that the cancer is defined as uncontrollable growth of cells which invade and cause damage to the surrounding tissue. The oral cancer is the growth or sore in the mouth which does not go away. Oral tumor is also known as mouth cancer or oral cancer. This type of cancer refers to a cancer which develops in any part of the parts that make up the mouth. There are some studies in which are said that men face twice the risk of developing oral cancer as women [1]. Also, men who are older than 50, have increased risk of developing oral tumors. There are some studies in which are said that 40,000 people in the United States of America have been diagnosed with oral cancer in 2014 [2]. The mouth cancer can happen on the:

  • Floor of the mouth
  • Roof of the mouth
  • Inner lining of the cheeks
  • Tongue
  • Gums
  • Lips

The cancer that is happening on the inside of the mouth is also known as oral cavity cancer or oral cancer. The mouth cancer is one of the several types of cancer which is grouped in a category known as “head and neck cancers”. It is known that the mouth cancer and other “head and neck cancers” are treated similarly in most cases.

Symptoms of oral cancer

Here are some signs and symptoms of mouth cancer [2]:

  • Sore throat
  • Difficult or painful swallowing
  • Difficult or painful chewing
  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Jaw pain or stiffness
  • Tongue pain
  • Difficulty moving the tongue
  • Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
  • Persistent sores on the face, neck or mouth that bleed easily and do not heal in a period of two weeks
  • Poorly fitting dentures
  • Loose teeth
  • A growth, lump or thickening of the skin or lining of your mouth
  • A sore that bleeds
  • Difficulty moving the jaw
  • The development of velvety white, red or speckled (white and red) patches in the mouth
  • Ear pain
  • A sore that does not heal
  • Difficulty with speaking
  • There can be lumps or bumps, swellings/thickenings, rough spots/crusts/or eroded areas on the lips, gums or other areas inside the mouth
  • You can have a feeling or soreness that something is caught in the back of your throat
  • A change in the way your teeth or dentures fit together
  • You can have unexplained numbness, loss of feeling or pain/tenderness in the area of the face, mouth or neck

You need to talk with your doctor or dentist if you have any persistent signs and symptoms which bother you and which last for more than 2 weeks. Your doctor will try to find out which could be the cause for your condition, such as infection.

oral cancer symptoms

Causes of oral cancer

The mouth cancer is happening when the cells on your lips or your mouth develop mutations (changes) in their DNA. These types of mutations are allowing the cancer cells to continue growing and dividing when the healthy cells would die. These accumulating abnormal mouth cancer cells can form a tumor. As the time passes, they can spread inside the mouth and on to other areas of the head and neck or other parts of the body. The mouth cancers are commonly beginning in the flat and thin cells (also called squamos cells) which line your lips and the inside of the mouth. The most oral cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. It is not known the reason for the mutations in the squamous cells which lead to mouth cancer. Doctors have identified the factors which are increasing the risk of mouth cancer.

Oral cancer risk factors

Here are some factors which can increase your risk of mouth cancer:

  • A weakened immune system
  • A sexually transmitted virus called HPV (human papillomavirus) [3]
  • Excessive sun exposure to your lips, especially at young age
  • Heavy alcohol use. [4] It is known that people who drink are having 6 times more chances to develop oral cancer compared to people who do not drink.
  • Tobacco use of any kind, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco and snuff, among others [5]. It is known fact that users of dip, snuff or chewing tobacco products have 50 times more chances to develop cancers of the gums, cheek and lining of the lips.
  • Family history of cancer

There are some studies in which are shown that over 25% of all oral cancers are happening in people who only drink alcohol occasionally or in people who do not smoke. This is a reason why you should stop smoking and drinking.


[1] Cancer Research UK. Men twice as likely to develop oral cancer. 2017. Retrieved from

[2] WebMD. Oral cancer. Retrieved from

[3] Kim SM. Human papilloma virus in oral cancer. Journal of the Korean Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. 2016;42(6):327-36.

[4] Bagnardi V, Blangiardo M, La Vecchia C, Corrao G. Alcohol consumption and the risk of cancer. Retrieved from

[5] Gautam DK, Jindal V, Gupta SC, et al. Effect of cigarette smoking on the periodontal health status: A comparative, cross sectional study. Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology. 2011;15(4):383–7.

Neem Mayur
Neem Mayur
Mayur Neem, a certified dietician having more than 5 years of experience in the field of diet practice. He is working as a diet expert and offering services to body builders, sports persons, celebrities, etc. He is lover of natural remedies and loves to spend most of his free time in his organic farm and offers expert advice on organic farming to local farmers. He is available through [email protected]


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