Tony Gwynn death draws attention to oral cancers - WFXG FOX54 Augusta - Your News One Hour Earlier

Tony Gwynn death draws attention to oral cancers

Posted: Updated:
Dentists can detect signs oral cancer, which experts say 40,000 people will be diagnosed with this year. (Source: FOX) Dentists can detect signs oral cancer, which experts say 40,000 people will be diagnosed with this year. (Source: FOX)

CLEVELAND (FOX) - The Oral Cancer Foundation said more than 40,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year, and one of the most recent victims was eight-time National League batting champion Tony Gwynn.

The 54-year-old baseball great had undergone surgery for cancer of the mouth and salivary glands in recent years.

Gwynn attributed the cancer to having dipped tobacco throughout his career.

Cleveland Clinic Dr. Brian Burkey treats head and neck cancers. He said while oral cancers are typically caused by tobacco, no one cause of any cancer can be pinpointed to a specific product.

"Most of head and neck cancer is preventable, and really the No. 1 factor in preventing head and neck cancer is not using tobacco, either smokeless or smoking tobacco," Burkey said. "That really is the cause of almost all head and neck cancer.

Dentists are often the first line of defense, and early detection improves the survival rate by as much as 90 percent.

Burkey said it is critical to pay attention to the early signs and symptoms of these diseases.

Head and neck cancer is the 10th most common cancer in the United States.

"The main thing is awareness," Burkey said. "People need to be aware that head and neck cancer exists. Smoking, the use of tobacco is a huge risk factor."

Copyright 2014 FOX. All rights reserved.

Powered by WorldNow