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Link between oral cancer, ethnicity reported

As part of a first epidemiologic study of oral cancer in California, researchers at the University of Southern California School of Dentistry, Los Angeles, have made a connection between the incidence of oral cancer and race and ethnicity.

Using data from the California Cancer Registry, researchers examined the incidence rates of invasive oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) from 1988 to 2001. They then categorized the cancer occurrences by anatomic site and the people who had cancer by ethnicity.

They found that black men have the highest overall incidence rate of OSCC, and that blacks and whites have higher oral cancer rates than do Hispanics or Asians. They also found that the tongue was the most common site of OSCC for all ethnicities.

"From what we know of how the cancer develops, we can extrapolate that cultural habits and lifestyle choices are directly linked to the prevalence of oral cancer in certain groups," said study co-author Dr. Satish Kumar, assistant professor, USC School of Dentistry's Division of Diagnostic Sciences.

Researchers found that black and white men and Koreans had the highest rates of cancer of the tongue and the highest rates of cigarette smoking.

Chewing tobacco or areca nuts, which is common in South Asian cultures, may account for South Asians' high likelihood of developing cancer in the inner cheek. The high rate of palatal cancer among Filipino women could be attributed to the common practice of reverse smoking (in which the lit part of the cigarette is concealed inside the mouth near the palate).

"If we are aware that certain subsets are getting a particular kind of oral cancer, we can develop educational materials tailored to that particular risk activity and that particular group," said study co-author Dr. Parish Sedghizadeh, assistant professor of clinical dentistry, USC School of Dentistry's Division of Diagnostic Sciences.