Fight Oral Cancer with a Proactive Approach

Originally published in Natural Awakenings Austin,June 2016

man looking scaredAccording to the World Health Organization, cancers figure among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide, with approximately 14 million new cases and 8.2 million cancer-related deaths in 2012. While survival rates have increased for almost all forms of cancer, oral cancer is usually not diagnosed until it has become advanced and/or metastasized. Data complied by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research shows that oral cancer rates are significantly higher for males than females.

Traditional risk factors for oral cancer include a previous history of cancer, age (40 and older), tobacco and excessive use of alcohol. Research published in the January 2014 edition of The Journal of Association of Radiology and Oncology reveals that oral cancers are occurring more often in younger patients and patients without any of these risk factors. Increased cell phone use and the rise of sexually transmitted diseases such as HPV16, herpes and fungal (yeast) infections can mutate normal cells and create cancer cells.

An unhealthy or compromised immune system cannot fight off pathogens or kill mutated cells. To ensure optimal immune function, a diet high in organic fruits and vegetables provides necessary antioxidants and keeps the body alkaline, which resists disease. The number of white blood cells which fight infections in the body are decreased for several hours after the consumption of sugar, so avoiding sugar, especially high-fructose corn syrup, is encouraged.

Prevention with supplements such as fish oils, monolaurin from coconut, oregano oil, selenium, zinc, lysine and vitamin C and D can be utilized. Probiotics restore the natural microbiome of the oral cavity, which can prevent disease. Curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric), resveratrol, green tea and the medicinal mushrooms cordyceps and chaga are also known anticancer agents.

Early detection is crucial. Fluorescence technology such as the VELscope and OralID are available that can identify oral cancer, precancerous and other abnormal lesions at earlier stages. The exam is painless and takes under two minutes to perform. Since most oral cancers are asympomatic, periodic screening is recommended with these devices.