Oral Cancer Fact Sheet


• An estimated 35,000 new cases of oral cancer will be
diagnosed each year.
• Oral cancer will claim 7,600 lives annually.
• On average, 60 percent of those with the disease will
survive more than five years.
• Oral cancer affects almost twice as many men as

Risk Factors

• An estimated 25% of oral cancer patients have no
known risk factors.
• Alcohol and tobacco remain the greatest risk factors
(and using them in combination increases the risk 15
times over the use of one or the other);
• Infection with the sexually transmitted HPV16 virus
has been linked to a subset of oral cancers.
• Historically, oral cancer has been a disease of those
ages 40+, but its incidence in those under 40 has been
• Prolonged sun or tanning bed exposure is a risk
factor for lip cancer.
• Smokeless tobacco is not a safe alternative to
cigarettes – users face a 400% greater chance of
oral cancer than non-users.

Possible Signs and Symptoms

• While you may have no symptoms at all, you should
see your oral and maxillofacial surgeon or dentist if
you experience any of the following:
– A sore on the lip or in the mouth that does not heal
– A lump or thickening on the lips or gums or in the
– A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsils or
lining of the mouth
– Bleeding, pain or numbness in the lip or mouth
– Change in voice
– Loose teeth or dentures that no longer fit well
– Trouble chewing or swallowing or moving the tongue
or jaw
– Swelling of the jaw
– Sore throat or feeling that something is caught in the

Early Detection

• Performing a self-examination regularly increases
the chance of identifying changes or new growths
• If you have risk factors, also see your oral and
maxillofacial surgeon or dentist for an oral
examination at least annually.
• The earlier the cancer is detected, the easier the
treatment and the greater the chance of a cure.

Source: National Cancer Institute, National Institutes
of Health