National Consumer Survey Reveals Greater Need for Oral Cancer Education and Prevention

April 27, 2016

This year alone, more than 600,000 new cases of oral cancer will be detected worldwide, including over 48,000 Americans. In the U.S. this year, there will be 9570 deaths from this disease—roughly 1 person per hour, every day. This is due to the fact that most cases of oral cancer are not diagnosed until the very late stages, at which point it has already advanced to a late stage.

But while the statistics are alarming—the awareness of this disease and its risk factors, which include tobacco use, drinking alcohol, and exposure to HPV-16—are still very low.

A recent national consumer survey conducted by Vigilant Biosciences, in collaboration with the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance, and Support for People with Oral and Head and Neck Cancer found that there is still much work to be done around increasing awareness of oral cancer and oral cancer risk. In fact, among U.S. adults, the majority knows very little or nothing at all about oral cancer (58%) and only 37% reported being screened for oral cancer at their last dental check-up.

Key findings of the survey are below. An executive summary of the survey and an infographic can also be found at

Screening for Oral, Head and Neck Cancer

While just over a third of those surveyed recall being screened for oral cancer at their last dental check-up, a large majority would like to be screened at every check-up and would like their dental professional to use simple screening tools to assess their risk.

Among notable findings:

  • Only 37%reported being screened for oral cancer at their last dental check-up.
  • 83% of respondents would like to be screened for oral cancer at every dental check-up.
  • 85% would like the option to be screened for oral cancer with a simple rinse and spit test that would assess early risk factors specifically associated with oral cancer, and provide information on increased or decreased risk for developing oral cancer. A number of those would be willing to pay $25 or more for this screening.

Risk Factors for Oral, Head and Neck Cancer

Tobacco use and alcohol consumption are behaviors associated with the highest risk for developing oral cancer. Another risk factor includes exposure to certain types of HPV (human papillomavirus), especially HPV-16.

While the majority of survey respondents recognized tobacco use as a leading risk factor for oral, head and neck cancer, many did not know that exposure to HPV was also a risk factor:

  • Only 23% recall talking to their dental professional about oral cancer risks at their last dental check-up.
  • 65% of respondents were unaware that HPV is a risk factor for oral cancer.
  • More than 86% want their dental professional to help them learn ways to reduce their risk of developing oral cancer.

Consumers also underestimated the death rate for oral cancer. Only 17% of those surveyed were aware that 40% of people diagnosed with oral cancer die within 5 years, with most believing the 5-year survival rate to be higher.

The results of this survey show that there is still much work to be done in regards to educating people on the risk factors for oral cancer and the need to be screened regularly. Hundreds of thousands continue to be diagnosed with late-stage oral cancer every year, but we can work together to impact those numbers by educating consumers on the risks and providing clinicians with simple, accurate, and cost-effective tests that can help detect oral cancer before it is too late.


Inspired by both his parents’ battle to overcome their affliction with oral cancer, Matthew H.J. Kim founded Vigilant Biosciences, Inc. in 2011 and serves as the company’s Chairman and CEO. Kim brings more than 20 years of experience encompassing IP management, technology transfer, due diligence, business and corporate development to his leadership role at Vigilant Biosciences. As CEO of Vigilant Biosciences, Matthew has led fundraising efforts, securing $7.8 million in funding for the company to date, and has and spearheaded the development and commercialization of the company’s first products, the OncAlert LAB Assay and the OncAlert Rapid Point-of-Care Test.

Mr. Kim received his bachelor’s degree in Biology from Washington University in St. Louis and his Juris Doctorate from Georgia State University. In 2015, he was honored by BioFlorida with the Weaver H. Gaines Entrepreneur of the Year Award for his extraordinary contributions to the growth of Florida’s life sciences industry in the leadership of a company.

Source: Dental Product Shopper

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