Smog or haze is formed due to air pollution caused from hazardous gases, chemicals and stems from industries, automobiles and power plants and also smoke from fires. Mouth cancer or oral cancer can still be possible even if you do not use tobacco, chew betel quid, smoke and drink alcohol. Yes, it is a fact, even if you control other habits, air pollution can still contribute to mouth cancer.

According to a new study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), people who are living in urban areas with heavy air-pollution are at an increased risk of getting mouth cancer. Incidences of mouth cancer are increasing not only in adults but also in middle-aged men – especially those who are living in metropolitan cities and cities with highest rate of air pollution. Thus, men are more likely to get oral cancer if they are in areas with highest levels of air pollutants.

Air-Pollution – A major risk factor now

People exposed to huge levels of fine particulate matter in air are nearly about 45% more likely to develop oral cancer – according to the same study. Furthermore, according to the senior researcher – professor Yung- Po Liaw, the presence of heavy metals in the particulate matter of polluted air could be the reason for increased risk of mouth cancer.

Polluted air contains fine metallic particulate components such as nickel, chromium, arsenic, cadmium and lead and also other PAHs – polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (organic compounds). Both these organic and metallic components of air are carcinogenic. The tiny particles present in the polluted air contain heavy metals – which are easily absorbed by the tissues of the mouth.

The overall fine particulate matter in polluted air contains carcinogens. Therefore, their effects are beyond respiratory problems and heart ailments. According to the statistics from Oral Cancer Foundation. among the majority of people who have been diagnosed with oral cancer, nearly about 50% will survive after five years. The mortality rate associated with mouth cancer is quite high due to the fact that these types of cancers are usually diagnosed at a late stage.

Measures to Minimize the Risk

Until now the health issues associated with air pollution were confined to heart and lungs, but now the major cause for concern is the association between air-pollution and oral cancer. Though the association is not like cause-and-effect type, yet the risk is huge. Therefore, the researchers have recommended mouth cancer screening for individuals living in high-risk polluted areas. This will help in early diagnosis and timely treatment.

Prevention is better than cure

Lifestyle modification can help because it is literally impossible to completely avoid exposure to polluted air. The risk can become manifold for those who are living in polluted areas and are involve in unhealthy habits such as smoking and drinking. Therefore, to minimize the risk, one should quit smoking and drinking and avoid exposure to polluted air. In addition, those who spend long hours outdoors owing to job or service should take additional precautionary measures such as – avoid going outdoors when particulate matter is very high in air. If their jobs demand going outside, then they should wear protective face masks when outdoors.