The exact reason why a cell becomes cancerous is still unknown. It is thought that something alters or damages certain genes in the cell, causing it to become abnormal and start multiplying.
Some people develop oral cancer for no apparent reason – it can affect anyone and there is no set list as to what will or won’t cause it. There are, however, certain risk factors that increase the chance of oral cancer developing. These include:
Smoking. There is a much higher incidence of oral cancer in smokers than in non-smokers.
- Excessive or frequent consumption of alcohol.
- Chewing tobacco.
- The Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is a sexually transmitted infection.
- Extended sun exposure to the area around your mouth, including your lips, without the use of a broad spectrum Sun Protection Factor (SPF) sunscreen.
What are the symptoms of oral cancer?
The most common symptoms of oral cancer are an ulcer or sore in the mouth that does not heal, and pain in the mouth that does not go away.
In many cases, changes in the mouth are seen before the cancer develops. This means that early treatment of these changes can help prevent a cancer developing.