Oral cancer has been on my mind lately with the recent national attention given to an increased risk of cancer and respiratory disease for teens and young adults who vape along with adults who use tobacco or drink a lot of alcohol. Each year, rates of oral cancers continue to increase, so when I read an article from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) on oral cancer prevention and care during treatment, I thought you might find it as interesting as I did for turning these trends around.
The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2018 about 51,540 people will be diagnosed with oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer, and unfortunately, an estimated 10,030 will die of these cancers. The most common causes of oral cancers include tissue damage from tobacco and heavy alcohol use. In Wisconsin, binge and heavy drinking is so prevalent that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has ranked my state second behind North Dakota as the drunkest states in the U.S. Even worse, 12 of the top 20 spots for drunkest cities nationwide have been claimed by Wisconsin cities.
As defined by the CDC, women binge drinkers consume four or more drinks in a single occasion and men consume five or more. Women who are considered heavy drinkers consume at least eight drinks per week and men consume 15. For those of you who fit into this category listen up, excessive alcohol use has been well documented as a direct link to oral and gastrointestinal complications and cancer.
Tobacco use and second hand smoke exposure also add to the increased rates of oral cancers, which result in premature deaths for nearly half a million Americans. Another 16 million live with serious illnesses caused by smoking, and our kids are more at risk now from tobacco use than ever before. Nearly 36% of 12th graders nationwide have tried vaping believing it's safer than smoking cigarettes. However, emerging research points to the extensive risks posed by vaping especially for our young people. A single Juul pod, one of the most popular brands for vaping, contains nicotine equal to one pack of cigarettes, and the so called "nicotine free" pods contain nicotine as well. While some believe e-cigarettes are better than smoking, those who vape are six times more likely to transition over to cigarettes at some point.
Dr. Mark Rubinstein, a professor of pediatrics with the University of California-San Francisco reports that urine tests of those using e-cigarettes revealed elevated levels of five different toxins all known or suspected carcinogens. Furthermore, vaping smoke contains metal particles and formaldehyde and has been found to increase the risk of depression and pneumonia, decrease the ability to fight infection, increase the risk of mouth sores and other dental complications, and lead to permanent damage of the lungs.
Now more than ever, it's time to change our behaviors and use food as medicine to prevent devastating chronic illnesses. Evidence of the critical role fruits and vegetables play in health management is mounting. As it relates to preventing oral cancers, the AICR recommends fresh produce specifically high in carotenoids, which are found in orange, red and green foods. Eating just two servings at every meal will make a significant impact on your health whether you're working to prevent chronic disease, support yourself through treatment or prevent a recurrence.
Without a doubt, eating a rainbow of fresh produce will always make a positive difference in your life, and it's never been easier to eat with the intention to heal.
Recipe of the Month
Courtesy of American Institute for Cancer Research