There was a time when oral cancer was only a concern primarily for white men, 45 and older, who used tobacco and drank excessively. And a very small amount of that group were included due to family history. But those statistics have changed drastically in recent years. The number of new cases of oral cancer have reached levels never before imagined.

What is the cause of this dramatic change?

This epidemic has come about primarily due to the human papillomavirus (HPV). which is a sexually transmitted virus that can be contracted through oral sex. The number of oral cancer cases today have gone way beyond just being discovered in men. An equal number of women and even many cases in the younger population as well. The increase in oral cancer is now considered a “disease” in epidemic proportions.

In 2007, The New England Journal of Medicine published a study about the link between HPV and oral cancer. It clearly states that there is a direct correlation between oral cancer and HPV even if the individuals have never used tobacco or alcohol, and have no family history of cancer.

The majority of the general population has no knowledge of this epidemic. As dental health care providers it is up to us to be at the front-line of this battle. We have a duty to our patients  and the respective communities to educates them about the risks of HPV.

Here are a few statistics to help give a better understanding of the seriousness of this disease:

  • Because oral cancer is often discovered in the late stage, there is only a 50 percent, five-year survival rate
  • Once every 60 minutes, of every day, of every week, of every month, of every year, someone in the United States dies as a result of oral cancer
  • Bottom line – oral cancer is a known killer unless detected very early