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World Cancer Day 2024: What causes mouth cancer in a non-smoker? An expert explains

World Cancer Day! Learn about mouth cancer causes in non-smokers from an expert. HPV, alcohol, diet & more - what to know & how to protect yourself.

Written By: Rahul Pratyush New Delhi Published on: February 02, 2024 13:15 IST
World Cancer Day
Image Source : FREEPIK World Cancer Day: Causes of oral cancer in non-smokers

Oral cancer poses a significant health threat, particularly in India, ranking as the second most prevalent cancer. Its primary association with smoking and tobacco use, notably chewing tobacco, is well-established. However, the rising incidence among non-smokers has prompted questions and concerns. As the world observes 'World Cancer Day' on February 4th each year, a global effort is made to enhance awareness and combat this disease. Dr. Ashish Gupta, Chief of Medical Oncology at Unique Hospital Cancer Centre in Dwarka, India, sheds light on the causes of oral cancer in non-smokers, aiming for effective prevention and early detection.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection: A significant risk factor for mouth cancer in non-smokers is HPV infection, particularly HPV-16. This virus is often transmitted through oral sex and close contact. HPV vaccination now available as Indian made vaccine is very important to prevent these cases. 

Alcohol consumption: Chronic alcohol consumption, even without tobacco use, increases the risk of mouth cancer. Alcohol acts as an irritant, and long-term use can damage cells in the mouth. Studies indicate that about 30% of oral cancers are linked to alcohol use. 

Dietary habits: A poor diet, especially low in fruits and vegetables, may elevate mouth cancer risk. Antioxidants and nutrients in these foods are crucial for cell protection. Research shows that a diet lacking fresh produce can increase oral cancer risk by up to 50%. 

Environmental factors: Sunlight exposure is a known cause of lip cancer, a type of mouth cancer. 

Chronic irritation: Continuous irritation from ill-fitting dentures or rough teeth can lead to cell changes and eventually mouth cancer. It's estimated that dental factors contribute to a small but significant portion of oral cancer cases. 

Family history: A family history of cancer may suggest a higher risk of developing mouth cancer. 

It is important to understand these factors so that we can take appropriate measures to reduce our risk even if we do not smoke or chew tobacco.


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