Oral Cancer

Oral cancer kills one American every hour of every day, according to the National Cancer Institute. The death is higher than many better known cancers such as melanoma.

Only 50 percent of those diagnosed with oral cancer will survive more than five years.

Early detection of oral cancer offers the best chance of survival, yet only one-third of oral cavity cancer is found in the earliest stages when treatment is most effective.

Men and women are both at risk. In the 1950s, men older than 40 were six times more likely to be diagnosed with the disease than women. By 1997, this male-to-female ratio was 2 to 1.

One-third of oral cancer now occurs in patients younger than 55.

One in seven people newly diagnosed with oral cancer were younger than 40, according to recent Johns Hopkins studies published in The New England Journal of Medicine. 25 percent of this group had no traditional risk factors.

Strong association exists between oral cancer and human papilloma virus (HPV), the same virus associated with cervical cancer in women. Because HPV is sexually transmitted, there is a link between oral sex and the potential development of oral cancer.

People who use tobacco are six times more likely to develop oral cancer. Eight of 10 oral cancer patients are smokers.

80 percent of people diagnosed with oral cancer consume more than 21 drinks weekly.

About two-thirds of cancer of the mouth or oral cavity occurs in the floor of mouth and tongue, but can occur in the upper or lower jaw, lips, gums, and cheek lining. Just behind the mouth is an area known as the orophyarnx. Oropharyngeal cancer (one-third of cases) occurs in the back of the tongue, tonsils, and throat tissue