While not everyone who uses chewing tobacco will develop oral cancer, the majority of people who have oral cancer also use tobacco.

Chewing tobacco doesn’t carry the risk of lung cancer associated with cigarette smoking, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe. Chewing tobacco is linked to oral cancer, a type of cancer that develops inside your mouth. In fact, the large majority of people who develop oral cancer are tobacco users.

When oral cancer from chewing tobacco first develops, it typically causes a small red or white bump that doesn’t heal. Jaw stiffness and swelling is another early sign.

It’s important to make a medical appointment as soon as possible if you’re a chewing tobacco user and you develop any symptoms of oral cancer. Early treatment can prevent the cancer from spreading and can increase your odds of a positive outlook. Keep reading to learn more.

Chewing tobacco is linked to an increased risk of oral cancer. Although chewing tobacco is smokeless, it still contains harmful and carcinogenic chemicals, including nicotine.

Oral cancer from chewing tobacco typically occurs in the area of the mouth where the tobacco is most often held. This normally involves the squamous cells that make up the outmost lining of the inside of the cheeks, the gums, or the space behind the teeth. When tobacco is held against this thin and mucus-like layer of lining, the carcinogens can get absorbed directly into the cells.

What are the odds of getting cancer from chewing tobacco?

Although not everyone who chews tobacco develops oral cancer, the large majority of people with oral cancer are chewing tobacco users.

Tobacco users of any type are more likely to develop oral cancer than non-users. Around 90% of all people who have oral cancer are tobacco users.

People who use chewing or any other type of smokeless tobacco have about 50 times greater risk of oral cancer than people who do not. The length of time you use chewing tobacco, and the amount you use, affects these odds. The longer you use chewing tobacco, the greater your risk will be.

What’s the average age of people who develop mouth cancer from dipping?

According to the American Cancer Society, the average age of diagnosis for oral cancers is 64. Less than 20% of all people who are diagnosed with oral cancer are younger than 55.

Changing your relationship with chewing tobacco

Your risk of cancer increases the longer you use chewing tobacco. Quitting is a great way to look after your health and reduce your oral cancer risk.

When you’re ready, there are multiple places you turn to for support when you quit:

  • Smokefree.gov: Smokefree.gov has tips, resources, guides, and online support services (in both English and Spanish) that can help you build a plan and stick to it. You’ll also find specialized support for teens, women, veterans, and people over 60.
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA) Hotline: The hotline 800-662-HELP (4357) is available 24/7 and can get you connected to support groups, treatment programs, and more, all located in your community. SAMHSA also offers an online locator for treatment facilities.
  • The quitSTART app: You can manage your cravings and track your progress from your phone using the quitSTART app. This free app is available in both the Apple and Google Play stores.
  • The National Texting Portal: For more support (including expert advice) right from your phone, you can text “QUITNOW” to 333888. The texting portal is free, but your service provider’s texting charges will apply.
Was this helpful?

You can look through the gallery below to get an idea of how oral tobacco caused by chewing tobacco appears.

One of the first signs of oral cancer from chewing tobacco use is typically a small red or white bump in the mouth. It’s common for people not to notice this first sign or to assume it’s a mild irritation that will heal quickly.

Oral cancer can also cause jaw inflammation and stiffness when it first develops. This is called submucous fibrous, and it can make it difficult to open your mouth fully.

As oral cancer progresses, other signs and symptoms can appear. These often include:

What to do if you think you may be developing oral cancer

It’s important to see a doctor if you think you might oral cancer. If you use chewing tobacco and develop symptoms such as red or white bumps in your mouth or jaw stiffness that makes it difficult to fully open your mouth, it’s a good idea to make a medical appointment.

Although these can be signs of other, less serious, conditions, having these symptoms for more than a week or two can point to oral cancer.

Often, oral cancer can be resolved successfully if it’s diagnosed and treated early. However, it can be much harder to treat when it spreads to the lymph nodes and other parts of the doctor. That’s why it’s so vital to see a doctor as soon as possible if you suspect you might have oral cancer.

Was this helpful?

Chewing tobacco is linked to a significantly increased risk of oral cancer. When you use chewing tobacco, the carcinogens can be absorbed into the outer layers of areas, such as the inside of your cheek, leading to cancer.

The first sign of oral cancer from chewing tobacco is often a white or red bump (or ulcer) inside the mouth that doesn’t heal.

If you using chewing tobacco and have a bump inside your mouth that doesn’t heal after a week or two, it’s important to make a medical appointment. Oral cancer is typically very treatable when it’s diagnosed early.