Oral cancer (OC) and oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC)
are used interchangeably, as more than 95% of all OCs are
OSCCs. Worldwide up to 275 000 new cases of OC are
seen every year. Most of these cases are seen in developing
countries such as South Africa. Up to 50% of all patients
living with OC will die within five years, and this survival rate
has not improved over the last few decades. Tobacco and
alcohol usage account for up to 75% of all OC cases. As
these causative factors can be avoided, all oral health workers
should be aware of the aetiology of OC so that sound
preventive advice may be given to their patients.
Infections and nutrition play a lesser but still important
role in the aetiology of OC. This article reviews the importance
of the aetiology of OC, with the emphasis on tobacco and alcohol.