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Journal/Book/Conference Title

BMC Public Health



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Originally published at

Funded in part by the VCU Libraries Open Access Publishing Fund.

Date of Submission

July 2020


Background: Oral cancers account for 3% of annual U.S. cancer diagnosis, 2 in 5 of which are diagnosed late when prognosis is poor. The purpose of this study was to report the population-level prevalence of oral cancer examination among adult smokers and alcohol drinkers and assess if these modifiable lifestyle factors are associated with receiving an oral cancer examination.

Methods: Adult participants ≥30 years (n = 9374) of the 2013–2016 cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey were included. Oral cancer examination (yes/no), smoking (never, former, current) and alcohol use (abstainers, former, current) were self-reported. Survey-logistic regression estimated odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) of ever and past year oral cancer examination adjusted for age, gender, race/ethnicity, education, income, and time since last dental visit.

Results: One third (33%) reported ever been examined for oral cancer, 66% of whom reported an examination in the past year. Adjusted OR (95% CI) of past year examination comparing current and former smokers to non-smokers were 0.51 (0.29, 0.88) and 0.74 (0.53, 1.04) respectively. Similarly, current and former alcohol drinkers relative to abstainers were less likely to report a past year oral cancer examination, OR (95% CI) = 0.84 (0.53, 1.30) and 0.50 (0.30, 0.83) respectively.

Conclusion: This study showed that smokers and alcohol users were less likely than abstainers to self-report a past year oral cancer examination. Access to affordable and targeted oral cancer examination within the dental care setting might ensure that these high-risk individuals get timely examinations and earlier diagnosis that might improve prognosis and survival.


© The Author(s). 2020 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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VCU Oral Health Promotion and Community Outreach Publication