A risk factor is a characteristic, behavior, or condition that raises the possibility of developing a disease. Here are the biggest risk factors for cancers of the lip and oral cavity:
People who use smokeless tobacco products and people who smoke pipes or cigarettes are at the highest risk for cancers of the lip and oral cavity.
Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation/Fair Complexion
UV radiation from the sun and tanning beds can damage the DNA of your skin cells and cause them to become malignant. Exposure to UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds increases the risk of lip cancer. This is why most lip cancers form on the lower lip. You are at higher risk if you have an outdoor occupation, if you spend a lot of time outdoors, if you have a history of bad sunburns, or if you frequently go tanning.
Frequent or heavy alcohol consumption puts you at risk for cancers of the lip and oral cavity. Use of both alcohol and tobacco increases this risk even further.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that puts you at risk for head and neck cancer, particularly cancer of the oropharynx, but has also been linked to some rare cases of oral cancer.
The risk for cancers of the lip and oral cavity increases with age. Most patients are over the age of 45 at diagnosis.
Lip and oral cavity cancer is more common in men than in women.