Oral cancer is cancer that starts in the mouth.
Oral cancer most commonly involves the lips or the tongue.
It may also occur on the:
• Cheek lining
• Floor of the mouth
• Gums (gingiva)
• Roof of the mouth (palate)
Most oral cancers are a type called squamous cell carcinoma. These cancers tend to spread quickly.
Smoking and other tobacco use are linked to most cases of oral cancer. Heavy alcohol use also increases the risk for oral cancer.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection (the same virus that causes genital warts) account for a larger number of oral cancers than in the past. One type of HPV, type 16 or HPV-16, is much more commonly associated with almost all oral cancers.
Other factors that may increase the risk for oral cancer include:
• Long-term (chronic) rubbing, such as from rough teeth, dentures, or fillings
• Taking medicines (immunosuppressants) that weaken the immune system
• Poor dental and oral hygiene
Some oral cancers begin as a white plaque (leukoplakia) or as a mouth ulcer.
Men develop oral cancer twice as often as women do. It is more common in men older than 40.