While experts cannot say how many years it may take to develop mouth cancer from smoking, they do know it is a leading risk factor for the condition, with most cases occurring in people who smoke.
Organizations such as the
This article reviews different types of mouth cancer, risk factors, how quitting smoking affects a person’s risk, and more.
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
According to the
Experts do not generally note how many cigarettes a person needs to smoke per day to increase their oral cancer risk. However, the
The Mouth Cancer Foundation suggests that as many as 90% of oral cancer cases occur in people who smoke. It also states that smoking increases a person’s risk of oral cancer sixfold.
Locations of cancer
The majority of mouth cancer cases are squamous cell carcinoma, regardless of where the cancer starts. Squamous cells are flat, thin cells that appear in various parts of the body, including:
- the surface of the skin
- the lining of the digestive and respiratory tract
- hollow organs
Locations in the mouth
Researchers note that tobacco use is a predominant
Oral cancer can develop in several different areas of the mouth, including:
- the hard palette
- the tongue
- the inner cheeks
Some studies have looked at the locations of oral cancer in people who smoke and people who do not. The findings of one study from 2014 suggest people who do not smoke may have a
Smoking tobacco products through cigarettes, pipes, or cigars is a well-established, predominant risk factor for developing oral cancer.
However, other factors can also increase a person’s risk,
- the use of chewing tobacco
- excessive alcohol use
- being male, as males are twice as likely as females to develop cancers of the mouth
- being over the age of 55
- certain inherited genetic mutations
- the presence of certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV)
- exposure to UV light, which is a particularly strong risk factor for lip cancer
- issues with nutrition, such as a lack of vegetables and fruits in the diet
According to the National Cancer Institute, people who quit smoking cut their risk of developing cancer of the mouth or esophagus by
Though they may not indicate the presence of cancer, a person may want to contact a doctor if they experience one or more of the following potential signs:
- pain in the mouth
- mouth ulcers that do not heal
- red or white patches in the mouth or throat
- speech issues
- trouble swallowing
- unexplained weight loss
- a lump in the neck or mouth
- thickening of the lip
- trouble moving the jaw
- loss of teeth with no clear reason
- unusual bleeding or numbness in the mouth
Treatment for mouth cancer can vary based on a person’s overall health and the cancer stage and location.
Some common treatments include:
- radiation therapy
- surgical removal of tumors
Some risk factors for mouth cancer are out of a person’s control, such as genetic mutations, age, and sex.
However, a person may be able to reduce their risk of developing oral cancer by making lifestyle changes that
- quitting smoking and the use of chewing tobacco, if applicable
- avoiding secondhand smoke
- eating a balanced diet
- limiting alcohol consumption
Although quitting smoking can be challenging, resources are available that may help. The
- trying nicotine replacement therapy, which can include over-the-counter patches and gums or prescription medications
- group or individual counseling
- calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW
- trying the
Please can also find resources at Smokefree.gov, where they can sign up for a texting program that may help with quitting.
Smoking increases a person’s risk of developing mouth cancer, with the risk increasing the longer a person smokes. Quitting smoking can lead to marked decreases in risk over time.
In addition, it is best to avoid chewing tobacco and drink only moderate amounts of alcohol to help reduce the risk of developing mouth cancer.
People can find several online supports that offer help with quitting smoking. They may also benefit from counseling or medications.