INTRODUCTION: Oral cancer is one of the most common cancers and it constitutes a major health problem particularly in developing countries. It is one of the leading causes of death. Tobacco and alcohol consumption appears to be the major determinants of oral cancer.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: The literature search was carried out in NCBI Pubmed database using keywords “oral cancer”, “risk factor”, “epidemiology” and “patho*”. Some basic information was also obtained from textbook and medical university websites.
RESULTS: Several risk factors have been well characterized to be associated with oral cancer with substantial evidences. The development of oral cancer is a multistep process involving the accumulation of genetic and epigenetic alterations in key regulatory genes. Experimental pathological studies of oral cancer in animal models and direct molecular genetic analysis of oral cancer subjects in recent times have revealed a substantial amount of knowledge on specific gene alterations or other genetic mechanisms involved in initiation and subsequent progression.
CONCLUSION: Considering known risk factors, oral cancer appears to be to a certain extent, a preventable disease. Recent development of molecular picture of pathoprogression and molecular genetic tools opens the avenue for easier diagnosis, better prognostication and efficient therapeutic management.