Is There A Risk Of Oral Cancers For Nonsmokers Too?

The World Health Organization describes oral cancer as a type of cancer that impacts the mouth, including the lips, gums, and tongue. It is a serious and possibly fatal condition that is frequently brought on by tobacco use, excessive alcohol use, and a diet lacking in fruits and vegetables. Oral cancer is a known risk factor for these factors, but non-smokers may also be at risk.

25% of cases of oral cancer were found in people who did not smoke. This suggests that there may be additional factors at work in the emergence of oral cancer, even in non-smokers.

Persistent irritation to gums or cheek from ill-fitting dentures or fixed crowns/bridges or from sharp corners of teeth is also emerging as a leading cause of oral cancer. Do not ignore such chronic trauma or cheek bites and visit your dentist immediately to rectify these issues.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is one factor that may increase the risk of oral cancer in non-smokers. The risk of developing cancer is increased by the sexually transmitted infection HPV, which can alter the cervix, throat, and mouth cells. According to a study in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, those who have HPV infection are almost three times more likely to get oral cancer than those who don't.

Lack of fruits and vegetables in the diet is another possible risk factor for oral cancer in non-smokers. According to a study that was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, people who eat a diet that isn't high in fruits and vegetables are more likely to develop oral cancer. This is because fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants and other nutrients that may help guard against the development of cancer, claim the researchers.

Additionally to HPV infection and a poor diet, other possible risk factors for oral cancer in non-smokers include excessive sun exposure, which can raise the risk of lip cancer, and specific medical conditions like Leukoplakia, which is a white or grey patch on the gums, tongue, or inner cheek.

Overall, it's important to be aware that non-smokers can also be at risk for oral cancer, even though heavy drinking and tobacco use are known to be the main risk factors. Non-smokers should engage in safe sexual behaviour, eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables, cover their lips from the sun, and visit the dentist regularly for check-ups in order to lower their risk of oral cancer.

Dr. Praveen Kumar
Associate Director
Department of Dental Surgery
Book an Appointment