New Oral Cancer Risk Factor Identified

Scientists have identified a new oral cancer risk factor. Many people are surprised to learn that this risk factor is from breathing particulate matter in the air we breathe!
In several areas of the world oral cancer incidence has risen. In the UK, for example, rates of oral cancer development have increased by 68 percent during the las decades. On the other hand, in the US, oral cancer and mortality rates have declined across the country. But the picture painted by the numbers does not show the complexities of thepolluted city -  paid - Depositphotos 78453624 m-2015 presence of this risk factor in some parts of the nation. The incidence of oral cancer and the number of deaths attributed to it have risen significantly in Nevada, North Carolina, Iowa, Ohio, Maine, Idaho, North Dakota, and Wyoming.
Some risk factors for oral cancer are well known: smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol, human papillomavirus (HPV). Among the lesser known risk factors (to Americans) are air pollution and chewing betel quid (a mix of natural ingredients wrapped in a betel leaf). The latter is popular in some parts of Southeast Asia. In India, oral cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related deaths in men aged 30-69. Many scientists believe the betel quid may be responsible for those deaths.
Yet, there is still much to learn about how and why oral cancer affects some individuals but does not affect others.
A recent study conducted in Taiwan (funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology) examined another possible risk factor for oral cancer: air pollution. We are aware of the connection between air pollution and heart disease and respiratory disease. This research, however, focused on "fine particulate matter, also called PM2.5. These are particles of liquid or solid matter in the air that measure 2.5 micrometers in diameter or less. The test included 482,659 men aged 40 or over. Data was collected from 66 air quality monitoring stations throughout Taiwan. By comparing each person's health records, they then estimated each person's exposure to PM2.5.
After considering a number of influencing factors, the scientists found that PM2.5 exposure also increased risk of developing oral cancer. Higher levels of PM2.5 were associated with a 43 percent higher risk of developing oral cancer. The scientists noted that the size of the particles allows the body to absorb them relatively easily, potentially causing damage as they travel through the body.
It is important to understand that this study was observational and preliminary. Further study is needed.
At this time, the recognition of PM2.5 as a risk factor for oral cancer should be a factor you need to discuss with your dentist. If you have experienced higher than average exposure to these particles, your dentist needs to know and will be attentive to the risk, examining you carefully for early signs of oral cancer.