African-American Tobacco Use and Oral Cancer

No Smoking

Written by Hardy Ware and Linda Joiner

Smoking remains the number one cause of preventable death, costing the United States billions of dollars each year. Oral or pharyngeal cancer will be diagnosed in an estimated 35,000 Americans this year, and will cause approximately 7,500 deaths. On average, 60 percent of those with the disease will survive more than 5 years. Statistics show that African Americans in the East St. Louis metropolitan area who are smokers could eventually die from oral cancer and other smoking-related diseases. Alcohol complicates these risks even more. African-American men have the highest risk of developing oral cancer compared to any other group in the United States.

Previous studies conducted at the University of Illinois at Chicago partnering  with the Illinois Department of Public Health showed that African-American men between the ages of 45 and 74 became the target or core population living in our area for acquiring late-stage diagnosis of oral cancer. Smoking and drinking alcohol over time creates a unstable and potentially dangerous situation for oral cancer. Oral cancer screening should be a priority in the community. Seeing your dentist and health care professional at least two times a year should detect any problems you may have. Early detection is the key to identifying cancer.

With early detection and timely treatment, deaths from oral cancer could be dramatically reduced. The 5-year survival rate for those with localized disease at diagnosis is 82 percent compared with only 28 percent for those whose cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Early detection of oral cancer is often possible. Tissue changes in the mouth that might signal the beginnings of cancer often can be seen and felt easily.

Generally, smokers are addicted to nicotine. Nicotine is a drug that makes it extremely difficult for smokers to quit.  For the majority of smokers, quitting is accompanied by withdrawal symptoms. Smoking cessation programs are available through local health departments, community health centers and the State of Illinois Tobacco Quitline.

The Illinois Tobacco Quitline (ITQ) is a free resource for tobacco users who want to quit for good. Registered nurses, respiratory therapists and certified tobacco-treatment counselors are on call 7 days a week, 7 a.m.-11 p.m. to answer all tobacco-related questions and provide the support you need to break the habit. Habla espanol?  ITQ serves a diverse client base, with Spanish-speaking counselors and live translation services for more than 200 languages. 1-866-QUIT-YES  (1-866-784-7937). is another free resource to help quit smoking provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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