Tongue cancer occurs when some cells of the tongue experience DNA damage and start growing and reproducing at an abnormal rapidity without dying as normal cells do during apoptosis, process of programmed cell death (PCD). Almost half of this malignancy develops on the rear part of the tongue, and about 95 percent of cases are a type of cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma. In this type of tongue cancer, the epithelialtissue (epithelium) first becomes cancerous.
What isthe Tongue?
The tongue is an important organ located in the oral cavity, which plays an important role in chewing food (mastication), swallowing and phonation (producing soundssuch as speech). It is also the organ of taste; that is, you cannot enjoy a good meal without your tongue. It is a highly vascularized organ.For instance, the pressures developed by the tongue on the teeth are able to move them. When it becomes cancerous, all these function can be impaired.
Causes and Risk Factors of Tongue Cancer
There is a variety of risk factors that are known to increase the risk of a person to develop tongue cancer. The more risk factors you are subject to the higher your risk of contracting this disease. The most common tongue cancer risk factors include:
Carcinogenic environment– living in a place where the air is seriously polluted
Unhealthy Lifestyle– this includes many factors such as poor oral and / or dental hygiene
Tobacco use – it is estimated that up to 90% patients with oral cancer were smoking tobacco. The risks increase with the amount smoked. Cancers of the mouth are six times more common among smokers (including ex-smokers) than among nonsmokers. The good news the risks may be reversible if you stop smoking. Earlier you stop better is your chance to not have the tumor.
Alcohol consumption– about 75 percent of patients who develop oral cancers are drinkers. The disease is found to be six times higher among drinkers than non-drinkers. The risk of having tongue cancer for individuals who smokes tobacco and drinking alcohol is 15 times higher than people who do not drink or smoke.
Ageand gender – Most people who have this cancer are between 50 and 60 years. Men are more atrisk of developing tongue cancer than women are.
Leukoplakia – a disease that causes thick white patches on the mucous membrane of the tongue and the lining of the cheeks. It can lead to cancer in individuals with weakened immune system if left untreated.
Erythroplakia – this superficial disease is characterized by red spots on the lining of the mouth. It increases the risk for tongue cancer.
Plummer-Vinson syndrome(also called Paterson–Brown–Kelly syndromeor sideropenic dysphagia) – a rare disorder often resulted of nutritional deficiencies, mainly long-term or chronic iron deficiency (anemia).