Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Searcher Post— Exploring the Evolution of Oral Cancer

Cancer is one of the more unfortunately diverse and broad issues the medical field has found itself dealing with. The intriguing characteristic about cancer is its ability to infect all parts of the human body. For this reason, I thought it would be of interest to myself, and hopefully the rest of the class, a closer look at oral cancer, and its evolution throughout time.

The origins of oral cancer, as we learned during lecture, are driven by both one’s genes and the environment. About 75% of oral cancers are linked to modifiable behaviors that include the excessive use of tobacco and alcohol consumption, poor hygiene, poor nutrition, ill-fitting dentures/ rough surfaces on the teeth, and chronic infections by bacteria (like HPV). When detected early, oral cancer can be prevented. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation however, “death rate associated with this cancer is particularly high not because it is hard to discover or diagnose, but due to the cancer being routinely discovered late in its development”. Other concerning facts about oral cancer (oral and pharynx) include: 42,000 individuals will be diagnosed this year alone. Thus, about 1 person every hour is killed by this sub-type of cancer, because of the 57% survival rate. This survival rate is not limited to only the United States. The prevalence of oral cancer can be cross-culturally examined as in The Open Nutraceuticals Journal . This article explores the molecular biology of oral cancers—and the reason behind higher genetic risk factors found among South Asian individuals.

Therapy of oral cancer is not always effective. If detected early, “stage I and II and be cured by surgery or radiation therapy but later stages, like III and IV are treated with radiotherapy or chemotherapy with 20% and 12% survival rates respectively”, according to Advances inthe biology or oral cancer. These methods of treatment of adaptive therapy result in a cultural lifestyle trade-off of the quality of life versus the quantity of life. For example through low dose chemotherapy, there is less strong selection pressures made thus sensitive cells are not killed, whereas responsive chemo cells are maintained. This way, resistant cells are unable to grow in new spots. In other words, one can either survive cancer (living with cancer) or completely get rid of cancer (with a lower fitness and life quality) and risk a relapse of the cancer.

In short, the existence of oral cancer was almost if not completely nonexistent during the age of our ancestors. The increase use of processed foods, agriculture, and uses of technology has exposed more viral infections and bacteria to the human oral cavity than ever before. It is inevitable that cancer treatment will become more progressive throughout the future years, and only time will tell just how effective it will be. 

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