What Causes Oral Cancer

Cancer is formed when a cell inside of the body begins to divide and does not die during the cell cycle when a normal cell would. This cell begins to divide and grow, uncontrolled, and forms masses known as cancer. Cancer is a malignant type of cell that can invade surrounding tissues. Oral cancer includes the roof and floor of the mouth, tongue, gums, lips, and inner cheek lining.


Catching the symptoms of cancer early is a good way to protect against the spread and lethality of the disease. The most common sign of mouth cancer is a sore inside the mouth or lip area that does not heal. Red and white patches on the gums or cheek lining can be also a symptom. Another indicator of oral cancer is loosening of teeth or persistent tooth aches and dentures that no longer fit inside of the mouth. Chronic bad breath (halitosis) and changes in speech can also be signs of oral cancer. An extreme loss of appetite for extended periods is a warning sign that can appear especially in the later stages of the disease.

Risk Factors

While it is not exactly known what causes the cell mutations that lead to cancer, doctors have been able to identify some of the behavior that raise the likelihood of developing oral cancer. Tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption are the two main factors in whether one will develop oral cancer or not. Prolonged sun exposure, poor oral hygiene, and the sexually transmitted HPV virus also increase the risk of developing oral cancer.  Age is a big risk factor which means the older a person gets, the higher risk they have of gaining oral cancer.


There are no proven ways to eliminate your chances of developing oral cancer but there are many things that you can do to limit risks. Stopping all tobacco use is the main way to eliminate the risk to oneself, even if you have been using these products for years. If you choose to ingest alcohol, do so in moderation and limit the frequency with which you do so. Maintaining proper oral hygiene and eating a healthy diet helps keep the oral cavity healthy. Limiting the amount of sexual partners or abstaining from sex are ways to decrease your risk to HPV and thus oral cancer, because condoms do not protect against the transmission.

Cancer is a cell that no longer dies during the cell cycle, but instead divides uncontrollably. While oral cancer, like all other cancers, is not completely understood, doctors have developed a list of risk factors that increase the chances of developing oral cancer. Tobacco and alcohol are the two main risk factors in developing oral cancer. Age, sex and skin tone also play a role and are some of the factors of oral cancer. There are many symptoms of oral cancer but sores on the mouth or lip area that will not heal is the most common. Be sure to alert your doctor or dentist if you are experiencing these symptoms because early detection can help defeat the disease.