May 10, 2017
A new approach: Partnering with dentists to prevent oral cancer
BY Clayton Boldt, Ph.D.
The American Dental Association (ADA) and MD Anderson Cancer Center have announced a joint effort to improve patient outcomes through programs aimed at dental and medical professionals and the public to increase human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations and tobacco cessation for oral cancer prevention.
“ADA member dentists promise to put patients first, and as a profession we look for innovative ways to treat and prevent disease, and promote wellness,” said ADA President Gary Roberts, D.D.S. “Together with MD Anderson, one of the most respected cancer centers in the world, we are excited to pioneer new programs to help our patients live healthy and disease-free lives.”
Both organizations agree that increasing the percentage of children and young adults vaccinated for HPV is critical to improving their health and reducing risk of several related cancers, including those of the oropharynx (the part of the throat just behind the mouth which includes the back third of the tongue; the back part of the roof of the mouth, also known as the soft palate; the tonsils, and the side and back wall of the throat). In addition, programs aimed at preventing children and young adults from starting to smoke while encouraging current smokers to quit is another key component of the collaboration.
“MD Anderson is pleased to partner with the ADA to develop innovative educational programs that will increase awareness about the prevention and early detection of oral cancers,” said Marshall E. Hicks, M.D., president ad interim, MD Anderson. “Tobacco use and HPV infection remain the leading causes of oral cancers. Through this collaboration, we have a significant opportunity to inform care providers and the public about the associated risks, and we can make a difference in the fight to end cancer.”
According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 50,000 cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx will be diagnosed this year in the U.S., and rates in men are more than twice as high as in women. These cancers often aren't diagnosed until late stages, when treatment is less effective.
Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of cancers in the U.S., responsible for roughly one-third of all cases. HPV infections are responsible for approximately 70% of all oropharyngeal cancers, about 9,000 annually, as well as the majority of cervical, anal and genital cancers. HPV-related oropharyngeal cancers are four times more common in men than women, and the incidence rate of these cancers has risen significantly in recent years.