Oral Cancer Awareness and HPV

Oral Cancer Awareness and HPV

Matthew Norman, DDS and Michelle Phillips, RDH


It was once thought that the incidence of oral cancer was predominantly caused by the effects of tobacco and heavy alcohol use.  In recent years, we have changed this line of thinking to include the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) in the group of leading oral cancer risk factors.  In fact, HPV-associated oral cancers are increasing at a more rapid rate than oral cancers associated with smoking and tobacco use. 


The American Cancer Society defines heavy alcohol use as two or more drinks per day for men, and one or more drink per day for women.  Tobacco use includes cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and smokeless tobacco.  Malignancies caused from tobacco and alcohol use are most commonly found in adults between 50-70 years old.  These lesions typically occur on the floor of the mouth (beneath tongue), tip of the tongue, lining of the cheek, and the attached tissue surrounding where the teeth are.

  tongue cancer

HPV is one of the most common virus groups across the world that affects skin and mucosal areas of the body.  The HPV virus is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact and sexually transmitted.  HPV is now recognized as a risk factor for developing oral cancer and is often found in younger individuals.  Oral cancer lesions originating from the HPV virus typically occur on the tonsillar area, base of the tongue and throat areas. 


oral cancer exam

April is Oral Cancer Awareness month.  The oral cancer screen is an integral part of your doctor examination at all hygiene or maintenance visits.  It is very important to keep routine hygiene visits scheduled so that these screenings can be performed.  Your Norman Dental team members are the only healthcare professionals that routinely evaluate your oral condition and monitor for any abnormalities.