There are a vast array of oral cancer causes, some more predictable than others. The following have been known to be causes of mouth cancer:
Tobacco -- Tobacco is the leading oral cancer cause. In fact, up to 90 percent of oral cancers are caused by tobacco. There are two ways in which tobacco products can cause mouth cancer:
- Cigarettes, Cigars or Pipes: Those who smoke tobacco are six times more likely than nonsmokers to develop oral cancer.
- Chewing Tobacco: Those who use chewing or "spit" tobacco are 50 times more likely to develop cancers of the cheek, gums and lips than nonusers.
Alcoholism -- Heavy drinkers are six times more likely to develop oral cancer than nondrinkers and they more than double that risk if they smoke. Because alcohol and tobacco work synergistically with each other, combining the two increases the risk of oral cancer by up to 80 percent.
Genetics -- Unfortunately, genetics can play a part on whether you might develop cancer. If you have a family history of oral cancer, take measures to avoid the causes of oral cancer and discuss your concerns with your doctor or dentist.
Diet -- Not getting the nutrients you need can put you at greater risk for a number of cancers. A diet low in vitamin A, C and E, iron and other vitamins and minerals can increase the risk of oral cancer.
Sun Exposure -- Ultraviolet radiation is also a leading oral cancer cause. Exposing yourself to the sun without sunscreen can lead to lip cancer, a type of mouth cancer. Not protecting your children from the sun can increase their risk of developing oral cancer as adults.
Viral Infections -- Some viral infections, including HPV, herpes simplex and the Epstein-Barr virus, have been determined to be oral cancer causes.
Mouth Conditions -- Leukoplakia and erythroplakia, two conditions characterized by white or red patches in the mouth, could be precursors to oral cancer. Often a result of using tobacco products, these mouth problems may contain precancerous cells that are known to be an oral cancer cause.
Poor Oral Hygiene -- Poor oral hygiene creates a great environment for causes of mouth cancer like smoking and drinking to take effect.
Ill-Fitting Dentures -- It has been suggested that ill-fitting dentures can cause chronic irritation of mouth tissues, leaving your mouth more vulnerable to infection and lesions. Poorly fitting dentures can also trap oral cancer causes in the mouth, such as alcohol and tobacco particles.
Age, Race and Gender -- Although age, sex and race aren't technically causes of oral cancer, they are significant factors that can play a part in your risk of developing it. Statistics from the Oral Cancer Foundation show that reaching the age of 40 increases your risk and men are at twice the risk as their female counterparts. African American men are at greater risk than Caucasian men, and men over the age of 50 have the greatest risk of all.
It should be noted that 25 percent of people who get oral cancer are not smokers or heavy drinkers. Regardless, with 75 percent of all oral cancer cases stemming from tobacco users, it's important to be aware of the risks if you smoke or fall into any of the other categories listed above.