There was a time when the common demographic for oral cancer was male smokers over the age of 55. Today that demographic has changed. Oral cancer now occurs more frequently in people under the age of 40, regardless of whether they smoke or not. Oral cancer is a subset of all head and neck cancers and comprises about 85 percent of those types of cancers. Recent data has proven that oral cancer no longer just affects older men.
The Under 50 Set
In the past, it was believed that if you didn’t smoke you most likely didn’t need not worry about developing oral cancer. That is no longer true. Today, oral cancer can affect you whether or not you are a smoker, and in fact, non-smokers under the age of fifty are quickly becoming the most common group to develop oral cancer.
Why the Change?
The reason for the paradigm shift in age demographics is due to the HPV virus. HPV, a common sexually transmitted virus, infects about 40 million Americans, consists of about 200 strains, and has been proven to cause oral cancers, especially those in the back of the mouth. The majority of HPV strains, however, are believed to be harmless.
Why Oral Cancer is so Dangerous
The reason oral cancer can be so dangerous is that it can easily go undetected because, in its earliest stages, it is often painless and unnoticeable to the human eye. This is why oral cancer boasts one of the highest morbidity rates. The good news is that during your biannual exams your dentist will perform a thorough oral cancer screening and teach you how to perform monthly self-examinations at home.