Over the years, cancer has developed into a serious chronic problem that affects a significant proportion of contemporary society. Cancer entails the uncontrollable growth and development of cells that attack and induce damage to the surrounding tissues (Petersen, 2009). Oral cancer, which is also referred to as mouth cancer, manifests itself in the form of a sore that persists in the oral cavity. Different oral cancers include cancers of the cheek, mouth floor, and leaps that require early diagnosis and treatment to prevent the escalation of the condition (Warnakulasuriya, 2009). Several direct and indirect factors account for the growth of oral cancer thus necessitating the integration of direct and indirect protective factors to curtail the prevalence of the condition. Therefore, this paper addresses the oral cancer issue by looking at direct and indirect factors that trigger the growth of the condition. Finally, the paper identifies the direct and indirect protective factors that would mitigate the development of this health issue.
Direct Contributing Factors
Several direct causal factors facilitate the growth of oral cancer. The main contributing factors to the prevalence of oral cancer in contemporary society include tobacco, alcohol, and the human papillomavirus (HPV). As an etiological factor, HPV entails the independent and unique disorder processes that trigger the development of oral cancer (Marur, D’Souza, Westra, & Forastiere, 2010).
Alcohol consumption is a direct contributing factor for oral cancer, and it mainly attacks the oral cavity, the pharynx, and the larynx. Individuals that consume “at least 50 grams of alcohol daily are two or three times more likely to develop oral cancer as compared to nondrinkers” (Warnakulasuriya, 2009, p. 310). Furthermore, individuals that engage in smoking and drinking at the same time have significant chances of developing the problem.
Alarmingly, tobacco smoking accounts for at least 30% of the sum of deaths occurring in the US. In this regard, tobacco consumed either in the form of cigars, cigarettes, spit, and pipes lead to the weakening of one’s immune system due to the poisons found in tobacco. Specifically, tobacco causes oral cancer by altering the DNA of a given cell thereby causing an uncontrollable growth of the cell developing a tumor. Smokers that also drink alcohol heighten their risk of developing oral cancer (Petersen, 2009).
HPV constitutes one of the direct causes of oral cancer. Since HPV appears in the form of a double-stranded DNA virus, it inflicts the epithelial cells around the mouth. Notably, having multiple sexual partners and a weakened immune system heightens the risk of contracting HPV-induced cancer of the mouth. Oral sex with multiple partners further bolsters the chances of acquiring oral cancer (Marur et al., 2010).
Indirect Contributing Factors
Besides tobacco, alcohol, and HPV, indirect predisposing factors for oral cancer include ultraviolet (UV) light, poor nutrition, a weakened immune system, and the Lichen planus condition (Warnakulasuriya, 2009). UV light, which is absorbed from the sun, could contribute to the development of lip cancer. Moreover, poor nutrition and diseases like HIV and Lichen planus could lead to the growth of oral cancer (Petersen, 2009).
Direct and Indirect Protective Factors
The direct protective factors that could control the development of oral cancer include quitting tobacco use, maintaining moderate alcohol consumption, and observing a healthy dietary habit. For instance, eliminating tobacco poisons and keeping a limit of 14-21 units of alcohol in a week together with boosting the immune system will counter the development of oral cancer. On the other hand, minimal exposure to UV lights balanced dieting, and having few or one sexual partner coupled with the use of condoms during intercourse will mitigate the indirect causes of oral cancer (Petersen, 2009).
Strategies to Prevent and Control Oral Cancer
Owing to the detrimental effects of the various cancers of the mouth, the need to address the issue is paramount in different communities. As such, raising awareness regarding the risk factors for oral cancer would go a long way in preventing and controlling chronic illness. Sensitizing the public concerning the correlation between tobacco use and oral cancer would facilitate the curtailment and monitoring of the health issue.
Furthermore, educating the public about the importance of lowering the weekly consumption of alcohol to an average of 21 and 14 units for men and women respectively would, address the issue of oral cancer prevalence in the various communities. Additionally, persuading people to observe a ‘Mediterranean-style diet’ would foster the essence of proper nutrition as it emphasizes healthy living, thus enhancing the immune system (Casa, Sacanella, & Estruch, 2014). Moreover, encouraging individuals to maintain healthy sexual behavior by avoiding multiple sexual partners and engaging in safe sex would mitigate the transmission of HPV that facilitates the spread of oral cancer (Petersen, 2009).
The various cancers of the mouth pose a significant threat to the health status of different communities. Risk factors include smoking tobacco, excessive alcohol consumption, and the HPV conditions for the lifestyle aspects that directly contribute to the prevalence of oral cancer. Additionally, excessive exposure to UV light, a weak immune system, and poor dietary habits form part of the indirect causes of oral cancer. In this regard, preventive strategies should center on raising awareness regarding the consequences of tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption, and irresponsible sexual behavior to address the issue in different communities.
Casa, R., Sacanella, E., & Estruch, R. (2014). The Immune Protective Effect of the Mediterranean Diet against Chronic Low-grade Inflammatory Diseases. Endocrine Metabolic and Immune Disorders Drug Targets, 14(4), 245–254.
Marur, S., D’Souza, G., Westra, W. H., & Forastiere, A. A. (2010). HPV-associated head and neck cancer: a virus-related cancer epidemic. The Lancet Oncology, 11(8), 781-789.
Petersen, P. E. (2009). Oral cancer prevention and control–The approach of the World Health Organization. Oral Oncology, 45(4), 454-460.
Warnakulasuriya, S. (2009). Global epidemiology of oral and oropharyngeal cancer. Oral Oncology, 45(4), 309-316.