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What causes tongue cancer?

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Quick Answer

As with all head and neck cancer, causes for tongue cancer are not expressly known. However, tobacco use, excessive consumption of alcohol, excessive sun exposure to the lips and the sexually transmitted disease known as the human papillomavirus have been identified as significantly increasing the risk of contracting mouth cancer, according to Mayo Clinic.

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Full Answer

There are two types of tongue cancer, and the classification depends on the area of the tongue that is affected, states Cancer Research UK. The most common type of tongue cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. This term is broadly applied to any cancer that starts in squamous cells, which are flat skin-like cells that cover the lining of the thyroid, mouth, larynx and nose. Symptoms of tongue cancer include persistent red and white patches, ulcers that do not go away, lingering numbness and pain while swallowing.

Common treatment options for tongue cancer include surgery, targeted drug therapy, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Surgery carries the risk of bleeding and infection, and it can impact a patient's physical appearance and his ability to eat, speak and swallow, explains Mayo Clinic. Additionally, radiation therapy is cited as having side effects such as tooth decay, bleeding gums and mouth sores.

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