"We're working hard to educate the public about oral cancer, which is more common than you might expect," says Dr. Louis Amendola, D.D.S. Chief Dental Director of the California-based dental HMO. "Statistics show that roughly one person per hour dies every day of oral cancer," he said.
Oral cancer can progress to a more serious stage without producing pain or noticeable symptoms," said Dr. Amendola. That's why the dental personnel in Western Dental's 250 offices are encouraging clients to understand and assess their risk factors for developing oral cancer.
"Oral cancer screenings are a routine part of dental checkups, and also our best method for early detection of the disease," says Samuel H. Gruenbaum, Western Dental President and Chief Executive Officer. "Knowing what habits you can change is the first step in making a change," he said.
Top Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
1. Tobacco. Nearly 80% of patients with oral cancer smoked or chewed tobacco.
2. Alcohol. Excess alcohol consumption is associated with cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, breast and liver. According to the American Cancer Society, about 70 percent or oral cancers develop in patients who drink heavily.
3. Smoking and drinking. Tobacco and alcohol together create a much greater risk of oral cancer than either by itself.
4. Gender: Men are twice as likely as women to develop oral cancer, typically because men are more likely to use tobacco and alcohol in larger quantities over a longer period.
5. Race: Oral cancer occurs twice as often among African Americans than among Caucasians.
6. Sun Exposure. Prolonged exposure to the sun's ultraviolet radiation can cause lip cancer.
7. HPV. The human papilloma virus is becoming one of the leading causes of oral cancer among nonsmokers under the age of 50.
8. Aging. The accrued damage from tobacco, smoking, viruses and other unknown causes makes middle age the most likely time to develop oral cancer.
9. Nutrition. A diet low in fruits and vegetables is linked to cancers of the oral cavity.
Western Dental Services, Inc., is the largest staff-model dental HMO and clinical provider of dental services in California. With more than 4,400 employees and over 250 company-managed dental offices throughout California, Arizona and Nevada, Western Dental is the leader in family and specialty dental care operations at convenient neighborhood locations. The company's strict quality oversight, affordably priced treatments, group and individual dental benefit plans, as well as evening and weekend office hours, help keep the smiles of nearly three-quarters of a million patients healthy and bright every year.