Reviewed by Dr. Benjamin Foley, DDS

Oral cancer is a serious and potentially life-threatening disease that affects the mouth, lips, tongue, throat, and salivary glands. It is estimated that over 50,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year alone.

While there are various risk factors for developing oral cancer such as tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption, there is growing evidence to suggest that nutrition also plays a significant role in its prevention.

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Research has shown that a poor diet can increase an individual’s risk of developing oral cancer. A diet lacking in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can contribute to the development of oral cancer. These foods are rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which help to protect the cells in our body from damage and promote healthy cell growth.

Certain dietary habits such as consuming high amounts of processed foods have been linked to an increased risk of oral cancer. These types of foods are known to increase inflammation in the body which can lead to cellular damage and potentially contribute to the development of cancer.

The Importance of a Balanced Diet

Maintaining a balanced and healthy diet is crucial for overall health, but it also plays a critical role in preventing oral cancer. A well-balanced diet should include a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals that help to boost the immune system and protect against cellular damage. Some specific nutrients to focus on include:

  • Beta-carotene:  found in orange and dark green vegetables such as carrots and spinach, is a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect cells from harmful free radicals.
  • Vitamin C: found in citrus fruits and berries, also acts as an antioxidant and can help repair damaged cells.
  • Vitamin E: found in nuts and seeds, helps to protect against cell damage caused by free radicals.

In addition to these nutrients, a diet high in whole grains and lean proteins can also provide essential vitamins and minerals that support a healthy immune system and promote cell growth. 

Healthy fats, found in foods like avocados, olive oil, and fatty fish are also important for reducing inflammation and protecting against cellular damage.

Prevent Oral Cancer with These Healthy Diet Tips

  • Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily
  • Incorporate whole grains into your meals
  • Limit or avoid processed foods, red meat, and saturated fats
  • Choose lean proteins like fish and plant-based sources
  • Include healthy fats in your diet
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and help with digestion

Other Important Factors for Oral Cancer Prevention

In addition to maintaining a healthy and balanced diet, there are other important factors to consider for preventing oral cancer. These include: 

  • Avoid or quit tobacco use: Tobacco use is one of the leading risk factors for oral cancer. Quitting smoking and using other forms of tobacco can significantly reduce your risk.
  • Limit alcohol consumption: Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to an increased risk of oral cancer. It is recommended to limit alcohol intake to no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.
  • Regular dental check-ups: Visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and screenings. They can detect any signs of oral cancer early on, increasing chances of successful treatment.
  • Practice good oral hygiene: Brush your teeth twice a day, floss daily, and use mouthwash to maintain a healthy mouth and prevent potential infections that could contribute to oral cancer development.

Warning Signs to Look Out For

Even with a healthy diet and lifestyle, it is important to be aware of any potential signs of oral cancer. If you experience any of these symptoms, book an appointment with one of our oral surgeons for further evaluation:

  • Persistent mouth sores that do not heal after two weeks
  • Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing or chewing
  • Numbness in the tongue, lips or other areas of the mouth
  • Hoarseness or persistent sore throat
  • White or red patches in the mouth or on the lips

Foley & Le: Your Oral Surgeons in Boulder

At Foley & Le Oral Surgery, we are committed to providing our patients with the highest quality of care. Our team of experienced oral surgeons is dedicated to educating patients on the importance of nutrition and its role in preventing oral cancer.

If you have any concerns about your oral health or would like to schedule a screening for oral cancer, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We are here to support you on your journey towards a healthy and vibrant smile.

If you are searching for an oral surgeon in Boulder or an ‘oral surgeon near me,’ we can help. Call (303) 444-2255 to book an appointment or complete the online inquiry form.

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