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J Cancer Educ. 1998 Summer;13(2):90-5.

An assessment of oral cancer prevention curricula in U.S. medical schools.

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Columbia University School of Dental and Oral Surgery, Division of Community Health, New York, New York 10032, USA.



Oral cancer is readily detectable through routine examination, but five-year survival rates remain low. Physicians bear the same responsibilities as dentists in the early detection of oral cancers, because high-risk patients utilize medical services more often than dental services.


Because physicians' practices are largely influenced by their training, this study assessed the level of oral cancer education provided to undergraduate U.S. medical students. Health history and physical diagnosis course curricula were assessed for relevant content.


The response rate from the U.S. medical schools was 63.2%. When compared with the "gold standard," the average score was 43% of the optimum. Seven percent of the schools did not require inspection of the mouth, 29% required inspection of all oral structures, and intraoral palpation was advocated by 43% of the schools. Although most schools included questions about alcohol and tobacco use, only 13% asked about sunlight exposure.


Preliminary oral cancer training in medical schools regarding physical assessment and elicitation of signs, symptoms, and high-risk behaviors lacks both adequacy and comprehensiveness.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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