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  • What is oral cavity and pharyngeal cancer?
    • Oral cancer can develop in any part of the oral cavity (the mouth and lips) or the oropharynx (the part of the throat at the back of the mouth). Each year in the United States, more than 21,000 men and 9,000 women are diagnosed with oral cancer. Most are over 60 years old.

  • How is oral cavity and pharyngeal cancer related to the environment?
    • Frequent sun exposure is a risk for lip cancer.

      In addition, there is also some evidence suggesting it may be linked with pharyngeal cancer.

  • What are the symptoms of oral cavity and pharyngeal cancer?
    • * A mouth sore that fails to heal or that bleeds easily
      * A white or red patch in the mouth that will not go away
      * A lump, thickening or soreness in the mouth, throat, or tongue
      * Difficulty chewing or swallowing food

  • What are the risk factors for oral cavity and pharyngeal cancer?
    • * Immunodeficiency
      * Certain occupational exposures
      * Tobacco use: Tobacco use causes most oral cancers. Smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes, or using smokeless tobacco (such as snuff and chewing tobacco) causes oral cancer. Heavy smokers who have smoked tobacco for a long time are most at risk for oral cancer. The risk is even higher for tobacco users who are heavy drinkers of alcohol. In fact, three out of four people with oral cancer have used tobacco, alcohol, or both.
      * Heavy alcohol use: People who are heavy drinkers are more likely to develop oral cancer than people who don't drink alcohol. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol that a person drinks. The risk increases even more if the person both drinks alcohol and uses tobacco.
      * HPV infection: Some members of the HPV family of viruses can infect the mouth and throat. These viruses are passed from person to person through sexual contact. Cancer at the base of the tongue, at the back of the throat, in the tonsils, or in the soft palate is linked with HPV infection.
      * Sun: Cancer of the lip can be caused by exposure to the sun. Using a lotion or lip balm that has a sunscreen can reduce the risk. Wearing a hat with a brim can also block the sun's harmful rays. The risk of cancer of the lip increases if the person also smokes.
      * A personal history of oral cancer: People who have had oral cancer are at increased risk of developing another oral cancer. Smoking increases this risk.
      * Diet: Some studies suggest that not eating enough fruits and vegetables may increase the chance of getting oral cancer.
      * Betel nut use: Betel nut use is most common in Asia, where millions chew the product. It's a type of palm seed wrapped with a betel leaf and sometimes mixed with spices, sweeteners, and tobacco. Chewing betel nut causes oral cancer. The risk increases even more if the person also drinks alcohol and uses tobacco.

      The more risk factors that a person has, the greater the chance that oral cancer will develop. However, most people with known risk factors for oral cancer don't develop the disease.

Last Revised: January 28, 2014


Data Query

Oral Cavity and Pharyngeal Cancer Data
Access the oral cavity and pharyngeal cancer data in the WI EPHT online database. Review the Data Details below to learn about interpreting the data.

The WI EPHT online database has data about other specific cancers:

Data Details

What is the data source?

The website provides data from the Wisconsin Cancer Reporting System, which is maintained by the Office of Health Informatics, Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

How does WI EPHT measure cancer?

The WI EPHT website includes the following measures:

  • counts for each cancer type
  • age adjusted rate for each cancer type

What are some considerations for interpreting the data?

While significant effort is made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the data, there are limitations that are listed below:

  • Reporting may be less complete from rural versus urban areas of the state.
  • Reporting may be less complete for cases where diagnosis and/or treatment occurs in a different state.
  • Reporting completeness is different depending on the type of cancer.

There are many factors that can contribute to a disease and should be considered when interpreting the data. Some of these include:

  • Demographics, e.g., race, gender, age
  • Socioeconomic Status, e.g., income level, education
  • Geographic, e.g., urban vs. rural
  • Changes in the medical field, e.g., diagnosis patterns, reporting requirements
  • Individual behavior, e.g., diet, smoking