The researchers worked upon this theory as they discovered that different ethnic groups living in California manifest the disease very differently.
African Americans and Caucasians, who have the highest oral cancer rates, are most likely to develop cancer of the tongue. Among Asian populations, Koreans had the highest incidence of tongue cancer, while Southeast Asians were more likely to develop the disease in the buccal mucosa, or inner cheek. Filipino women have the highest incidence.
The authors also stated that the reason behind the development were the cultural habits which were to be blamed. For example African American and Caucasian men, with the highest rates of cancer of the tongue, also have the highest rates of cigarette smoking in the state.
While in the Asian groups, Koreans have the highest cigarette smoking rates. The practice of chewing tobacco, or areca nut, most common in South Asian cultures, may account for that group's likelihood of developing the disease in the inner cheek. The high rate of palatial cancer among Filipino women could be attributed to the practice of reverse smoking, when the lit part of the cigarette is concealed inside the mouth.
"Smoking is still considered taboo among Philippine women, the lit part of the cigarette contains the most carcinogens and if held near the palate, could account for these statistics," said Dr.Parish Sedghizadeh, clinical professor in the school's Division of Diagnostic Sciences.
The Oral cancer Foundation has found that Up to two-thirds of oral cancers are caused by tobacco or alcohol use. Though the cancer will claim the lives of 7,500 Americans this year, it is the most diagnosed cancer in many developing countries—including India, China and Vietnam—where its populations engage in these high-risk behaviours.
Hoping that the research would tailor oral cancer prevention messages aimed at particular ethnic groups Sedghizadeh said "If we are aware that certain subsets are getting a particular kind of oral cancer, we can develop educational materials tailored to that particular risk activity and that particular group."
"Ultimately we realize that need to increase awareness not just for the individual," but for their entire community as well," added Satish Kumar clinical professors in the school's Division of Diagnostic Sciences.
The study will appear in be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, Oral Radiology and Endodontology.