The Oral Cancer Foundation shares the following information about the demographics that are the most likely to develop oral cancer in their lifetime.
Age, gender, race, and ethnicity
The demographics of those who develop this cancer have been consistent for some time. While historically the majority of people are over the age of 40 at the time of discovery, it is now occurring more frequently in those under this age. Exact causes for those affected at a younger age are now becoming clearer in peer reviewed research, revealing a viral etiology (cause), the human papilloma virus number 16. There are also links to young men and women who use conventional "smokeless" chewing or spit tobacco. Promoted by some as a safer alternative to smoking, it has in actuality not proven to be any safer to those who use it when referring to oral cancers. Campaigns to promote the safety of smokeless are being initiated, but it is clear that while it may reduce lung cancers, it has a negative effect on the rates of oral cancers, pancreatic cancer, periodontal disease, and the chronic infections that it produces may even link it to heart disease as well. The gains against lung cancers may occur, but there will be new losses in other areas. The jury is out on other new smokeless tobacco dissolvable products, and until their use has acceptable research behind it we recommend avoiding it.
It is also now confirmed that in a younger age group, including those who have never used any tobacco products, have a cause which is HPV16 viral based. The human papilloma virus, particularly version 16, has now been shown to be sexually transmitted between partners, and is conclusively implicated in the increasing incidence of young non-smoking oral cancer patients. This is the same virus that is the causative agent, along with other versions of the virus, in more than 90% of all cervical cancers. It is the foundation's belief, based on recent revelations in peer reviewed published data in the last few years, that in people under the age of 50, HPV16 may even be replacing tobacco as the primary causative agent in the initiation of the disease process.
From a gender perspective, for decades this has been a cancer which affected 6 men for every woman. That ratio has now become 2 men to each woman. Again, while published studies do not exist to draw finite conclusions, we will probably find that this increase is due to lifestyle changes, primarily the increased number of women smokers over the last few decades. It is a cancer which occurs twice as often in the black population as in whites, and survival statistics for blacks over five years are also poorer at 33%, versus 55% for whites. As in the above examples, it is unlikely we will find a genetic reason for this. Lifestyle choices still remain the biggest cause. These published statistics do not consider such socio-economic factors as income levels, education, availability of proper health care, and the increased use of both tobacco and alcohol by different ethnic populations, but all these factors likely play a role in who develops the disease.
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