PHOENIX -- On a radio telethon yesterday, former Arizona Diamondbacks star Curt Schilling said he is fully convinced chewing tobacco is to blame for his mouth cancer.
Dr. Samual Ejadi at Scottsdale Healthcare's Virgina G Piper Cancer Center did not treat Schilling but says he is glad the star is speaking up about this dangerous cancer.
“These people are in the limelight; kids look up to them," Ejadi said. "I looked up to them when I was younger.”
Ejadi says we have long known that cigarette smoking is linked to cancers of the head and neck.
“Alcohol also, and if you put both of them together, they clearly are responsible for the majority of these cases," he said.
While Ejadi says it is difficult to pinpoint exact causes, he says Schilling's belief that it was chewing tobacco certainly has merit.
“Chewing tobacco is another form of tobacco, and it is conceivable that if you are chewing on that plant material in your mouth that you are releasing a lot of these same chemicals," he said.
And he says having big names like Schilling and former Diamondbacks announcer and baseball legened Joe Garagiola speak up is incredibly important.
He says anything we can do to discourage risk factors and raise awareness about oral cancer really is a lifesaver.
“Generally, head and neck cancers, just like many other cancers, if it spreads it is very rare you can cure these things," he explained.
But Ejadi says if caught early, head and neck cancers are usually best treated surgically.