April is National Cancer Control Month. If you suspect your teen is smoking or using smokeless tobacco, you might want to take time to educate him or her about the risk for oral cancer.
Oral cancers occur in the head and neck area and include mouth, tongue, tonsils and throat cancers. According to The Oral Cancer Foundation more than 42,000 Americans were diagnosed with oral cancer last year – about 100 people a day.
People are at increased risk for oral cancer through two main avenues – tobacco use and exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV). Although there are nearly 200 strains of the HPV virus, only 9 of them are known to cause cancer. However, a recent study from researchers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit found a 60% increase in oral cancers in people younger than 45, and HPV may be the problem.
Help your kids understand that smoking is addictive. Nicotine, the drug in tobacco products, is as addictive as heroin, cocaine, or alcohol, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Tobacco smoke contains some 7,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic. In addition, tobacco use is also bad for your teeth. It can cause yellowing and staining of teeth, bad breath and gum disease.
Though most oral cancers are detected later in life, they often occur among people who used tobacco at an early age. Take time to educate your teen about the risks of tobacco use so they can avoid or quit as soon as possible. Use this list of resources to help you or your teens quit smoking and adopt a healthier lifestyle.