It’s important to understand the risk factors for oral cancer so you know whether you should visit a dentist for an oral cancer screening. Smoking or using smokeless tobacco – smokeless tobacco is not a safer alternative to smoking, and both put you at risk for oral cancer. Excessive alcohol consumption – this risk is increased for individuals who combine heavy alcohol consumption with tobacco use. Frequent or prolonged exposure to sun without proper protection – this can lead to cancers in the lip area, although these are declining with the increased awareness of the dangers of ultraviolet rays.
In recent years doctors have seen an increase in the number of younger people diagnosed with the disease, and research has revealed it is likely due to human papilloma virus number 16 (HPV16), a disease transmitted through sexual contact. Part of the danger with oral cancer is that there are not a lot of really obvious signs of the disease in its early stages. Some other signs of oral cancer include a white or red patch of tissue in the mouth, a canker sore that doesn’t heal after more than two weeks, or unexplained and persistent bleeding in the mouth.
Treatment for oral cancer may involve a mix of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy depending on the stage at diagnosis.
If you have not been screened recently for oral cancer and you have some warning signs or risk factors, it’s important to see a dentist right away. SEER is an authoritative source of information on cancer incidence and survival in the United States. The information used on this page will not be used to send unsolicited emails or shared with a third party. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) - Did you know infection with about 15 HPV types is associated with cancer among both men and women? Expand All Collapse AllLifetime risk estimates are not available with the current statistics release, but will be added later when population data for older age groups are available. Prevalence of This Cancer: In 2013, there were an estimated 300,682 people living with oral cavity and pharynx cancer in the United States. How Many People Survive 5 Years Or More after Being Diagnosed with Oral Cavity and Pharynx Cancer? Relative survival statistics compare the survival of patients diagnosed with cancer with the survival of people in the general population who are the same age, race, and sex and who have not been diagnosed with cancer.

Cancer stage at diagnosis, which refers to extent of a cancer in the body, determines treatment options and has a strong influence on the length of survival.
The earlier oral cavity and pharynx cancer is caught, the better chance a person has of surviving five years after being diagnosed. In 2016, it is estimated that there will be 48,330 new cases of oral cavity and pharynx cancer and an estimated 9,570 people will die of this disease. Oral cancer is more common in men than women, among those with a history of tobacco or heavy alcohol use, and individuals infected with human papillomavirus (HPV). For oral cancer, death rates are higher among males, particularly those of African American descent. Keeping track of the number of new cases, deaths, and survival over time (trends) can help scientists understand whether progress is being made and where additional research is needed to address challenges, such as improving screening or finding better treatments. Using statistical models for analysis, rates for new oral cavity and pharynx cancer cases have been rising on average 0.6% each year over the last 10 years.
Most lip and oral cavity cancers start in squamous cells, the thin, flat cells that line the lips and oral cavity.
All statistics in this report are based on statistics from SEER and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics.
Howlader N, Noone AM, Krapcho M, Miller D, Bishop K, Altekruse SF, Kosary CL, Yu M, Ruhl J, Tatalovich Z, Mariotto A, Lewis DR, Chen HS, Feuer EJ, Cronin KA (eds).
All material in this report is in the public domain and may be reproduced or copied without permission; citation as to source, however, is appreciated. The statistics presented in this factsheet are based on the most recent data available, most of which can be found in the SEER Cancer Statistics Review.
Getting oral cancer from HPV16 is particularly dangerous because it often affects the back of the mouth, such as oropharynx, tonsils, or the back of the tongue, and doesn’t produce some of the same telltale signs of disease (visible lesions, discoloration) that can lead to early diagnosis.
The best way to lower your risk is to visit your dentist regularly for cleanings and check-ups, at the recommended six-month intervals. If you can feel an obvious lump or bump, you have difficulty swallowing, a persistent earache on one side, or hoarseness that doesn’t heal for a long time, it’s a good idea to have these things checked by your dentist. The Dental Clinic at Roseman University offers an affordable option for dental care if you don’t have a dentist or don’t have dental insurance.

SEER currently collects and publishes cancer incidence and survival data from population-based cancer registries covering approximately 28 percent of the U.S.
Because survival statistics are based on large groups of people, they cannot be used to predict exactly what will happen to an individual patient. In general, if the cancer is found only in the part of the body where it started it is localized (sometimes referred to as stage 1). The number of new cases of oral cavity and pharynx cancer was 11.1 per 100,000 men and women per year based on 2009-2013 cases.
Because these statistics are based on large groups of people, they cannot be used to predict exactly what will happen to an individual patient. Oral cancer five-year survival rates are only at 57 percent, which is markedly lower than survival rates for diseases like breast cancer (85 percent) or prostate cancer (close to 100 percent). Dentists can often see some of the early changes in the tissues in your mouth, or even feel the tumor while it is still very small.
Often the dentist will order a biopsy of suspicious-looking areas to determine for sure whether it is cancer. Early diagnosis and treatment offer the best chance for survival when it comes to oral cancer. No two patients are entirely alike, and treatment and responses to treatment can vary greatly.
This factsheet does not address causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, follow-up care, or decision making, although it provides links to information in many of these areas. Despite significant advances in cancer treatments and therapies, the five-year survival rate for oral cancer has remained the same for decades because many people do not discover the cancer until very late in the development, when it has metastasized to another area of the body (often the lymph nodes in the neck). Squamous cell carcinoma usually develops in areas of leukoplakia (white patches of cells that do not rub off).

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