Tobacco, Cancer and Oral Health
By Doyle Williams
Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States, and unfortunately, we see the dangers of it all too often in the dentistry field. Despite the warnings, education and community outreach, tobacco use in the US has been steady, and is increasing globally. The Institute of Medicine is holding a workshop next week in Washington DC with health leaders from around the country to examine the impact of policies and programs to reduce tobacco use and to promote collaboration among the cancer community and others to implement strategies to eliminate tobacco use.
Oral cancer is most commonly caused by tobacco use, so to see the health community come together to discuss this issue is a promising step. Smokeless tobacco and cigarettes contain at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals, and can cause cancers of the mouth, lip, tongue, pancreas, and even voice box, esophagus, colon and bladder. If you’re a tobacco user, be sure to inform your dentist, so they can perform a thorough exam to check for oral cancers. But the most important thing you can do is quit.
Even if you’re not a tobacco user, be sure to ask your dentist for an oral cancer screening- it can happen to anyone!