Oral cancer risk factors

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Sargun Singh Walia M.B.B.S.[2], Simrat Sarai, M.D. [3]; Grammar Reviewer: Natalie Harpenau, B.S.[4]


The most potent risk factor in the development of oral cancer is alcohol intake and tobacco use. The other risk factors include male gender, age over 55 years, ultraviolet light, Fanconi anemia, dyskeratosis congenita, HPV infection, graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), mouthwash and irritation from dentures.

Risk Factors

Common risk factors

Less common risk factors

  • Less common risk factors for the development of oral cancer include:
    • According to a study: poor dental hygiene or health and use of dentures made out of metal can lead to increased risk of oral cancer.[9] 
    • Diet
      • Diet low in fruits and vegetables and high in consumption of meats is associated with oral cavity cancer.   
    • Mouthwash[10]
    • Low socioeconomic status


  1. Su CC, Yang HF, Huang SJ, Lian I (2007). "Distinctive features of oral cancer in Changhua County: high incidence, buccal mucosa preponderance, and a close relation to betel quid chewing habit". J. Formos. Med. Assoc. 106 (3): 225–33. PMID 17389167. Vancouver style error: initials (help)
  2. Martín-Hernán F, Sánchez-Hernández JG, Cano J, Campo J, del Romero J (May 2013). "Oral cancer, HPV infection and evidence of sexual transmission". Med Oral Patol Oral Cir Bucal. 18 (3): e439–44. PMC 3668870. PMID 23524417.
  3. Kim SM (December 2016). "Human papilloma virus in oral cancer". J Korean Assoc Oral Maxillofac Surg. 42 (6): 327–336. doi:10.5125/jkaoms.2016.42.6.327. PMC 5206237. PMID 28053902.
  4. Sanjaya PR, Gokul S, Gururaj Patil B, Raju R (December 2011). "Candida in oral pre-cancer and oral cancer". Med. Hypotheses. 77 (6): 1125–8. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2011.09.018. PMID 21978967.
  5. Muscat JE, Richie JP, Thompson S, Wynder EL (November 1996). "Gender differences in smoking and risk for oral cancer". Cancer Res. 56 (22): 5192–7. PMID 8912856.
  6. De Benedittis M, Petruzzi M, Giardina C, Lo Muzio L, Favia G, Serpico R (November 2004). "Oral squamous cell carcinoma during long-term treatment with hydroxyurea". Clin. Exp. Dermatol. 29 (6): 605–7. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2230.2004.01586.x. PMID 15550132.
  7. Ram H, Sarkar J, Kumar H, Konwar R, Bhatt ML, Mohammad S (June 2011). "Oral cancer: risk factors and molecular pathogenesis". J Maxillofac Oral Surg. 10 (2): 132–7. doi:10.1007/s12663-011-0195-z. PMC 3177522. PMID 22654364.
  8. de Araújo RL, Lyko Kde F, Funke VA, Torres-Pereira CC (2014). "Oral cancer after prolonged immunosuppression for multiorgan chronic graft-versus-host disease". Rev Bras Hematol Hemoter. 36 (1): 65–8. doi:10.5581/1516-8484.20140016. PMC 3948669. PMID 24624039.
  9. Rosenquist K, Wennerberg J, Schildt EB, Bladström A, Göran Hansson B, Andersson G (2005). "Oral status, oral infections and some lifestyle factors as risk factors for oral and oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma. A population-based case-control study in southern Sweden". Acta Otolaryngol. 125 (12): 1327–36. doi:10.1080/00016480510012273. PMID 16303683.
  10. Scully C (2002). "Oral squamous cell carcinoma; from an hypothesis about a virus, to concern about possible sexual transmission". Oral Oncol. 38 (3): 227–34. PMID 11978544.