Smokeless Tobacco and Cancer

Posted by Dr. Soto May 17, 2019

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With an estimated 90 percent of Floridians acknowledging that smoking can be addictive, cigarette use is also at an all-time low within our state. Florida’s ban on smoking in the workplace, certain public places and restaurants might have something to do with this success, however, Florida still ranks very high when it comes to tobacco use compared to other states – especially with teens. One reason could be that, while smoking tobacco products is frowned upon, not to mention against the law for minors and within certain areas and jurisdictions, the use of smokeless tobacco is on the rise. Perhaps it’s easier to get that nicotine buzz with smokeless tobacco; it could be a conscientious choice to prevent others from exposure to second-hand smoke. But the real story is that smokeless tobacco, also known as dip, snuff, chew or chaw, is one of the leading causes of oral cancer. Here is what you need to know about smokeless tobacco and cancer.

A Pinch of Chew

Tobacco use is easy; simply place a pinch or tiny pouch between your gums and inner cheek or lower lip. As saliva is soaked though the tobacco product, the user either spits the juice on the ground or in a container or – for some – actually swallows the juice. And while smokeless tobacco may seem like a cleaner, safer alternative than cigarettes, the truth is that, like cigarettes, smokeless tobacco is formulated with many toxins that can cause cancer.

A Fast Buzz

Truck drivers, baseball players, law enforcement officers and military servicemen often rely on smokeless tobacco for a buzz that they say keeps them focused and awake. In fact, smokeless tobacco for many years was encouraged because it was thought to be safe and its side effects minimal. However, this quick “safe” buzz that comes from dipping is a result the tobacco being absorbed by thousands of tiny blood vessels inside the mouth, then passing quickly into the bloodstream. Furthermore, the tissues in the mouth that make contact with the tobacco change in cellular makeup and texture to form lesions. The condition is called leukoplakia.

Dangerous Odds

When it comes to developing cancer from smokeless tobacco, the statistics are less than encouraging:  users twice as likely to develop oral cancer than those who do not use the product. Every year, nearly 50,000 Americans were diagnosed with oral cancer; of those diagnosed, an estimated one in five did not survive.

Abstention is Best; Regular Screenings are Key

The best way to avoid the ill effects of smokeless tobacco is to never start. However, if you do enjoy either a frequent or even an occasion dip, know that oral cancer can be treated, but only if detected early. Regular screenings with your dentist are key. In fact, a majority of oral cancer is detected during a patient’s regular dental check-up. If you do develop oral cancer, your doctor may recommend any number of treatments, to include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or a combination. But why risk it? Treatment for oral cancer depends on what type you have and how far it is progressed. Unfortunately, treatment for more advanced oral cancers may include removing some part or all of the affected area which can result in scarring or disfigurement, sometimes necessitating reconstructive surgery.

Bottom line:  If you use smokeless tobacco products, quit. If you don’t use it, don’t start.

Oral Cancer Screening in South Florida

If you are concerned about your oral health, Dr. Ernie Soto is one of South Florida’s most trusted dental health professionals.  Our dental clinic in Plantation, Florida is designed to be relaxing and welcoming for our patients; our goal is to put you immediately at ease. To learn more about oral health or to receive an oral cancer screening, call Dr. Ernie Soto today at (954) 368-6264 or request an appointment online.

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