Don’t ignore that jagged tooth or protruding denture piece that is continuously grazing your inner cheek lining, causing a raw wound that never heals. The wound, over time, could turn cancerous.
According to Lalit Kumar, professor of medical oncology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), “A sharp or broken tooth with sharp edges may keep irritating the inside lining of the mouth (buccal mucosa) and result in ulcer formation. Over a period of time, if not healed, the continuous irritation may lead to development of cancer.” Matters can get “more complicated if a person is using tobacco/pan masala/supari etc which may be a continuous irritant,” says Kumar
At a recent talk, Kumar was asked by an elderly woman who had got cured of breast cancer why she had suddenly developed oral cancer. “I don’t smoke, or drink or even chew tobacco, then how did I develop oral cancer,” she asked the specialist. Kumar replied that maybe there was a jagged tooth causing constant irritation inside her mouth, which might have over the years developed into cancer.
Tobacco use contributes to 25-30 percent of cancer deaths worldwide, and tobacco use along with alcohol acts as a dangerous cocktail, says Kumar.
But more than tobacco use, diet causes more cancer deaths worldwide — 30-35 percent. Smoked food, which is prevalent in eastern Europe and northeast India, contributes to cancer cases as well as the use of preservatives in food. Giving an example of smoked food, he said: “Meat, sausages and fish like salmon is cooked over slow fire of wood or coal to make it tastier and also to preserve it for a longer time. The incidence of stomach cancer has been found to be almost 40-50 times higher in people using smoked food regularly,” adds Kumar.
Do genes have a role to play in cancer? According to Kumar, humans have two sets of genes — the oncogene, which make us prone to develop cancer and the tumor suppressor gene, which prevents development of cancer. “In those who use tobacco, a carcinogen, the cancer promoting genes get activated fast and have the upper hand over the tumor suppressor genes, which finally leads to development of cancer. But the good part is that prognosis or outcoe of such individuals following treatment is much better than those who smoke,” he adds.
About 10 million people are diagnosed with cancer every year worldwide.