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Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention

A Division of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services

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Maine Cancer Registry - Oral & Throat Cancer: Risk Factors, Prevention & Early Detection

Oral & Throat Cancer in the U.S.

Oral and throat cancer is the 12th most common cancer in the U.S. According to the 2006 American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts & Figures, an estimated 30,990 new cases of oral and throat cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. and 7,430 people in the U.S. will die from it annually. Two thirds of the cases were in men, for whom it is the 8th most common cancer. Since the 1980's the incidence and mortality rates of this cancer have been decreasing.

Risk Factors for Oral and Throat Cancer

  • In the U.S. an estimated 75% of oral and throat cancers are associated with tobacco or alcohol, alone or in combination.
  • A person who is a heavy smoker and drinker is 35 times more likely to get oral or throat cancer than a person who does not smoke or drink.
  • Smokeless/chewed tobacco (snuff) can cause higher rates of this cancer.
  • A diet low in fresh fruits and vegetables can promote oral and throat cancer.

Prevention of Oral and Throat Cancer

  • Not smoking and reducing alcohol intake are the most effective ways for Americans to reduce their chances of getting oral and throat cancer.
  • A smoker's risk of getting oral and throat cancer can be cut in half within 5 years of quitting. Ten years after quitting, the risk may be close to a non-smoker's.

Early Detection of Oral and Throat Cancer

Why is early detection important?

  • Cases detected early (local disease) have about an 81% chance of living for at least five more years.
  • Cases detected at the distant stage (when disease has spread to another part of the body) have only a 26% chance of living for five more years.

How to Improve your Chances of Detecting Oral and Throat Cancer Early

  • See your dentist regularly and ask about being examined for these kinds of cancer.

For information on oral & throat cancer statistics in Maine, please see MCR's Annual Reports.