Smoking and drinking can lead to more than lung cancer

April 14, 2016 | by Joseph Kash, MD

We’ve all seen the commercials that seek to curb smoking and tobacco use, but they don’t often hit home until we know someone who has been diagnosed with cancer. Staying informed and knowing how your lifestyle can affect your cancer risk can help you make better choices.

It all starts with one cigarette, which leads to two, and before you know it you’re hooked on tobacco. But smoking is the leading cause of cancer, and not just lung cancer. Smoking in the form of cigarettes, pipes and cigars all increase the risk of developing oral, head and neck cancer as well.

A study from the National Cancer Institute says at least 75 percent of head and neck cancers are caused by tobacco and alcohol use. Combined with drinking alcohol, your risk of developing cancer in the mouth, pharynx, larynx and esophagus multiplies.

It doesn’t stop at smoking. How do you know when you are putting yourself at risk by drinking too much? Recent studies show people who consume 50 or more grams of alcohol per day (approximately 3.5 or more drinks per day) have at least a two to three times greater risk of developing oral, head and neck cancers than non-drinkers.

Because lifestyle choices can greatly affect the risk of developing these cancers, screenings are essential. Routine visits and checkups at the dentist or physician’s office can search for areas of abnormalities in the head or neck.

Taking care of your body can also help you stay healthy and reduce your oral, head and neck cancer risk. You’ll want to see a physician if:

  • You have a sore throat that does not heal or go away
  • There is an increase in swelling, pain or bleeding in your mouth
  • You have frequent headaches, pain and ringing in your ears
  • You have trouble breathing, speaking or swallowing
  • Your voice changes and you have difficulty swallowing

Treatment options vary depending on the type of cancer and stage, but the earlier the disease is caught, the better the odds of beating it. Reduce your risk through regular screenings and checkups, and choosing an active, healthy driven life. 

How do you make smart lifestyle choices? Tell us in the below comments.

Learn more about how to do your part to not get cancer.

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