Oral Cancer and Precancer: the Relevance of Early Diagnosis
Abstract Body: Over 500,000 estimated new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year. The incidence of oral cancer increases with age, however cases in people younger than 40 years are increasing.
It is a largely preventable cancer since most of the different risk factors identified. Tobacco use, alcohol consumption, and betel nut chewing are behaviors that increase the likelihood of the disease. Given its high mortality, early diagnosis is of utmost importance. Prevention and the anticipation of diagnosis begin with identification of potentially malignant lesions of the oral mucosa and with local conditions promoting chronic inflammation. Therefore, every lesion must be recognized promptly and treated adequately. The clinical recognition and evaluation of oral mucosal lesions can detect up to 99% of oral cancers/premalignancies. Surgical biopsy remains the gold standard for diagnosis of oral cancer. Early diagnosis of oral cancer is essential to save a patient’s life, minimizing at the same time the negative impact on quality of life that would arise from invasive surgical intervention.
Nowadays, there are several diagnostic tools for screening that improve the ability of the clinician to characterize any suspicious lesion, as well as, the availability of new point-of-care testing using salivary biomarkers that recognize the risk of malignant transformation. In the last decade, research has identified biomarkers in biological fluids, i.e., saliva, that might have the potential of increasing early diagnosis and detect a premalignant and malignant lesion that is asymptomatic or unnoticeable. Saliva contains many organic and inorganic molecules, proteins, peptides, and electrolytes. Since these methods are non-invasive, inexpensive, and easy to perform as point-of-care testing technique, they can be well-accepted by patients.
The scientific community is constantly updating preventive measures and screening methods to detect oral cancer at an early stage to reduce the diagnostic delay that could save the patient’s life.