Alabama Governor Kay Ivey today proclaimed April 2019 to be Oral Cancer Awareness Month, stating that the state ranks fifth in the nation for oral cavity and pharynx cancer incidence.

Published Feb 27th, 2019

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey today proclaimed April 2019 to be Oral Cancer Awareness Month, stating that the state ranks fifth in the nation for oral cavity and pharynx cancer incidence.

“The goal of this proclamation is to raise awareness among Alabamians of this very real and very important cancer threat and to provide education for prevention and early detection to reduce rates of oral cancers in Alabama,” said Dr. Casey L. Daniel, assistant professor of Oncologic Sciences at USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute.

Football legend and cancer survivor Pat Sullivan, a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback at Auburn University, was also on hand for the signing. Sullivan overcame throat cancer after being diagnosed 15 years ago.

An estimated 51,540 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer this year, and an estimated 10,030 people will die of the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute. Oropharyngeal cancers include cancers of the base of the tongue, soft palate, tonsils and throat, and are often associated with infection from the human papillomavirus, or HPV. Other risk factors include tobacco use and moderate to heavy alcohol use.

Alabama ranks seventh among states in deaths from these cancers, but lags behind in HPV vaccination rates at 43rd, according to NCI statistics. About 70 percent of oropharyngeal cancers are linked to HPV infection, which is also the predominant cause of cervical cancer, Daniel said.

“It comes as a surprise to many people that there are more oropharyngeal cancers in men than there are cervical cancers in women, both nationally and in Alabama,” Daniel said. “This is yet another reason to vaccinate adolescents against HPV – to prevent these cancers and promote longer, healthier lives for Alabamians.”

In addition to USA Health, several statewide health organizations and officials showed support for the proclamation, including the Alabama Comprehensive Cancer Control Coalition, the Alabama Department of Public Health, the UAB School of Dentistry, and state Dental Director Dr. Tommy Johnson and former state Dental Director Dr. Stuart Lockwood.

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