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More olympians screened for oral cancer

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More olympians screened for oral cancer
More olympians screened for oral cancer
by Lisa Townshend, DT UK

LONDON, UK: Dentists have screened a fifth of all athletes taking part in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver in Canada for oral cancer. Around 800 athletes sat in the dentist’s chair during the competition, with more than 70 dentists and their assistants on hand to practise preventative dentistry in addition to fixing teeth and mouths. Dental associations have welcomed the increased screening campaign that will also educate athletes on the importance of applying sun-cream to help prevent mouth cancers.

The decision to examine 20 per cent of all athletes in the Games was taken by the International Olympic Committee. At the last Winter Olympics in Turin in Italy, only 10 per cent of Olympians were screened for oral cancer. Dental treatment services at sports events like the Olympics usually focus primarily on treating infections and emergency trauma cases involving possible damage to teeth, lips, cheeks and tongues, and broken bones.

Owing to their training conditions, athletes tend to neglect their oral health, according to Dr Jack Taunton, Co-chief Medical Officer of the Games. He said that they are so nomadic they tend to postpone dental treatment. Some athletes in Nordic events also chew tobacco, which contains numerous carcinogens that can cause oral cancers. In addition, the reflection of ultraviolet radiation off snow and ice increases the risk of developing skin and lip cancers.

“You have to consider they are exposed to these intense ultraviolet rays for up to 30 years, through their training and post-competitive coaching years. The skin on the lips is thin and poorly protected,” said Dr Chris Zed, Associate Dean of Dentistry at the University of British Columbia and Co-head of Dental Services for the 2010 Winter Games.

He added that the danger is cumulative and could lead to the development of oral cancer later in life.

(Edited by Daniel Zimmermann, DTI)


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