Early Signs of Oral Cancer and How to Prevent it

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in developed countries after cardiovascular diseases. But in no way should it be thought of as a disease of the affluent. It ranks among the top three causes of death in low and middle-income countries. In 2016, 7.4 million people died of cancer. In spite of medical advances, cancer is on the rise and cancer deaths may rise to more than 11 million in 2030. Lung cancer is the single largest killer among all cancers and a large part of it occurs because of tobacco use.

Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is the cancer of the mouth and oropharynx (part of the throat behind the mouth). It is one of the most common cancers among men in India. You can protect yourself against oral cancer by:

  • Avoiding tobacco in all forms (cigarettes, pipes, cigar, snuff). There is solid evidence that stopping tobacco use reduces the chances of oral cancer.
  • Avoiding chewing betel nut. Betel nut chewing can cause oral cancer. Limiting alcohol use. Those who consume both tobacco and alcohol are at a greater risk of oral cancer.


You can increase your chances of treatment by recognizing oral cancer at the earliest

  • Early symptoms of oral cancer: are white patches (leukoplakia) or red patches in your mouth (erythroplakia), a sore in the mouth that does not heal.
  • Regular examination by your dentist can help detect oral cancer early.


  • Quit tobacco in all forms, smoking as well as smokeless (pan, gutkha etc.).
  • Have alcohol in moderation. Not more than 2 drink a day for men or 1 for women.
  • Adopt a physically active lifestyle. At least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week.
  • Consume a healthy diet with limited red meat and saturated fat and more fiber
  • Get vaccinated against hepatitis B.
  • Protect yourself from HPV infection through safe sexual practices. Women may consider vaccination.
  • Though skin cancer is rare in India, sunscreen is advised to protect skin from UV radiation.
  • Avoid the risk of occupational exposure to chemicals and radiation through taking necessary precautions.

Partly because of the dramatic portrayal of cancer in the movies of yesteryears, and partly because of plain lack of information, cancer is commonly viewed as a health calamity, an “Act of God” that can strike anyone at any time. The problem with this perception is that we do not give serious thought to cancer prevention because we do not see how our lifestyle choices and level of awareness may impact our risk. Scientific research has been able to identify cancer risk factors that are within our control.