Oral cancer on the rise in the US
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif., USA: New research conducted on behalf of the Oral Cancer Foundation has found that many Americans are unaware of the fact that the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted virus, is the fastest-growing risk factor for oral cancer. The data supports the current consensus that awareness of oral cancer and early discovery measures is low, and that most Americans do not recognize that the profile of the oral cancer patient has evolved from heavy smokers and drinkers to anyone who is sexually active.
According to the OCF, approximately 40,000 Americans will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer in 2012. This is the fifth consecutive year in which there has been an increase in the incidence rate of the dangerous disease. Oral cancer is often caught in the late stages, when the five-year survival rate is less than 50 percent. When diagnosed in the early stages of development, oral cancer patients have an 80 to 90 percent survival rate.
The results of the national survey, conducted by market research consultancy Kelton among a representative sample of 1,024 Americans aged 18 and over, indicated that more than four in five Americans know that smoking (83 percent) and chewing tobacco (83 percent) are risk factors. However, the survey also revealed that they remain in the dark about other potential causes of oral cancer, including alcohol consumption and HPV, the most common sexually transmitted infection.
The survey showed that women tend to be slightly more aware of the risk factors of oral cancer than men. Forty percent of women and 33 percent of men correctly recognize alcohol consumption as a risk factor for oral cancer, but less than 30 percent of both sexes realize that a sexually transmitted virus is a causative factor for the disease.
“Oral cancer takes the life of one person an hour and for those who do survive, it can be severely disfiguring and debilitating,” said Brian Hill, founder and executive director of the OCF and a stage-four oral cancer survivor. “It’s one of the few types of cancer that hasn’t experienced a significant decline in fatalities over the past several decades. To reverse this trend, we need to create awareness that virtually everyone over the age of 18 is potentially at risk and hence in need of an opportunistic annual oral cancer screening.”
According to Hill, because people are not aware of the risk factors, they do not take a proactive approach to screening and early detection of oral cancer, which has a high survival rate if diagnosed early.
OCF is currently organizing an extensive effort to promote Oral Cancer Awareness Month in April and to encourage dental and medical practices throughout the U.S. and Canada to offer free oral cancer screenings during the month. Several companies and organizations are co-sponsoring OCF’s efforts, including LED Dental, manufacturer of the VELscope Vx oral cancer screening system. The OCF survey was funded in part by the company.
A summary of the recently released survey, “Americans’ appreciation for their mouth overshadowed by their lack of awareness of oral cancer”, is available at www.oralcancer.org/study. The survey document includes detailed information about specific risk factors, as well as a summary of the survey results. The breakout report, which includes the survey questions and detailed answers, is also available on the same webpage.