Objective: This study assessed awareness of oral cancer, knowledge of its major risk factors and clinical signs, and oral cancer examination experiences among Florida adults aged 40 years and older.
Methods: A statewide random digit dial, computer assisted telephone survey was conducted in 2002. Data from 1,773 respondents were weighted to permit statewide estimates. Bivariate analyses were used to examine awareness and knowledge of oral cancer. Multiple logistic regression analysis was used to model past-year oral cancer examination experiences of Florida's adults.
Results: In Florida, 15.5% of adults aged 40 years and older had never heard of oral cancer and another 40.3% reportedly knew little or nothing about it. About one-half of adults did not think oral white or red patches or bleeding could indicate oral cancer and 27.6% correctly identified three of oral cancer's major risk factors. After hearing an oral cancer exam described, just 19.5% of adults reported receiving one within the preceding 12 months. Blacks and Hispanics were significantly less likely than non-Hispanic whites to have received a recent oral cancer examination. Persons with low levels of education, those who lacked a regular dentist or source of preventive medical care, and adults who knew few or none of the clinical signs of oral cancer also were less likely to have received a recent oral cancer exam.
Conclusions: There is widespread lack of awareness and knowledge in Florida regarding oral cancer and low levels of reported examination, particularly among groups experiencing disproportionately high incidence and late stage diagnosis. Increasing awareness of this disease and promoting primary and secondary prevention may help lessen the disease burden in Florida and reduce racial disparities in its outcomes.