American Dental Association Awarded $1.2 Million Oral Cancer Grant

Sept. 30, 2002
Association will forcus on both prevention and early detection efforts.

The American Dental Association (ADA) announced today it received a grant of $1.2 million from the National Cancer
Institute to develop and implement a continuing education program for oral health care professionals in the fight against oral cancer.

"Despite advances in oral cancer treatment, only about half of all persons diagnosed with it survive more than five years," says ADA President Dr. D. Gregory Chadwick. "We want to see those survival numbers go up, and that is why we are so extremely pleased with this award because it will help bring prevention and early detection to the forefront in our battle against oral cancer."

The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates some 28,900 oral cancer cases will occur this year, resulting in 7,400 deaths. Incidence rates are more than twice as high in men as in women and are greatest in men over age 40. Risk factors include cigarette, cigar or pipe smoking, use of smokeless tobacco and excessive consumption of alcohol. However, 25 percent of oral
cancer victims do not smoke or have any other known risk factors.

The five-year grant will focus on oral cancer prevention, with long-range goals of increasing the number of dentists who counsel at-risk patients about stopping tobacco use, according to principal investigator Dr. Sol Silverman, professor of oral medicine, University of California at San Francisco. Through this program, he added, we also will lay the foundation to increase detection of oral cancer at its earliest, most curable stage.

"Initially, our project will target practicing dentists in the United States for additional education on oral cancer prevention and reducing risks of the disease for their patients," Dr. Silverman explains. "We also will explore the potential use of this continuing education program for other health care professionals, including dental hygienists, nurse practitioners and primary care physicians."

A key component of the project's prevention program will include
tobacco-cessation training for dentists, according to project collaborator Dr. K. Vendrell Rankin, associate professor, Baylor College of Dentistry, The Texas A&M Health Science Center.

"Any type of tobacco use is a major risk factor for oral cancer," said Dr. Rankin, who will oversee the design and implementation of the tobacco cessation part of the educational program. "For example, cigar smokers have a four to 10 times greater risk of dying from cancer of the oral cavity, throat or esophagus compared with nonsmokers."

Dr. Rankin, a tobacco cessation expert, said the additional education for dentists is essential because 12 percent of 8th graders and nearly 30 percent of 12th graders become regular tobacco users. It is estimated that between two and three thousand youth in the United States become regular tobacco users each day, she added.

"The age group most likely to benefit from tobacco cessation information from dentists is the group that visits their dentist with greater frequency than their physician," she explained.

According to the ACS, cancer can affect any part of the oral cavity,
including the lip, tongue, mouth and throat, with five-year and 10-year survival rates placed at 54 percent and 39 percent, respectively.

Signs to look for include:
* a sore that bleeds easily or does not heal;
* a color change of the oral tissue;
* a lump, thickening, rough spot, crust or small-eroded area; or
* pain, tenderness or numbness anywhere in the mouth or on the lips.

Responding to the need for increased education and awareness of oral cancer is not new to the ADA. Just last year, the dental association conducted a national oral cancer public service campaign, encouraging the public to take an active role in learning the signs of the disease that kills nearly one American every hour.

The oral cancer awareness campaign featured two different public service advertisements that appeared on a variety of outdoor venues, including billboards, bus-shelter signs and commuter bulletins. Both featured a small, white spot on the tongue with the message, "It's tiny now. Don't let it grow up to be oral cancer. Testing is now painless. See your dentist."