small image of a bobblehead doll: Bob Uecker
1. Science of baseball2. Denver's big advantage3. Love that curve ball! 4. Rained out?5. National spot: Mouth cancer








Mouth of a 28-year-old who chewed a can of spit tobacco a day for 10 years. National Institutes of Health.









Bobblehead Bob reads: Just because smokeless tobacco is less dangerous than cigarettes doesn't exactly make it safe.

  'talk' balloon coming from Bob, says: 'A Why Files Grand Salami!'

A pitch for tobacco
Maybe you've seen those ads, asking if that spot on your tongue is mouth cancer. The topic arises not just because mouth cancer strikes 30,000 Americans and kills nearly 8,000 per year. But also because some cases are caused by chewing tobacco and snuff.

A guy lofts a brown stream of spit and tobacco. Disgusting... No question, chewin's way cool. National Institutes of Health.

And you guessed it: these are drugs-of-choice for some baseball players. We don't know why (could it be simply to kill boredom?).

So kids: as you pick a favorite ball player, maybe you should choose a non-chewer -- one who may stick around for a while.

Like cigars and cigarettes, smokeless tobacco is addictive. But since smokeless supplies as much nicotine as three cigarettes, "many people say that quitting smokeless is harder" than cigarettes, says Gregory Hartig, an associate professor of otolaryngology who specializes in head and neck cancer at University of Wisconsin Hospital.

A highly distorted face and mouth reflect repeated surgeries for oral cancer.Hartig adds that the risk of oral cancer rises fourfold among users of spit tobacco, as it's also known. While that is dangerous, he says cigarettes increase the risk of oral cancer 15-fold (not to mention their role in causing lung cancer).

Before cancer appears, smokeless tobacco causes noncancerous white lesions called leukoplakia. Many of these patches disappear in a few weeks if the chewer or snuffee quits or sticks the wad in the other side of the mouth. However, some of these white patches will turn into cancer, Hartig says. Drinking alcohol increases the hazard that all forms of tobacco pose to the mouth, throat and nearby anatomy.

Other chemicals can also cause leukoplakia. A new study linked the condition to an old formulation of Viadent toothpaste and mouth rinses containing sanguinarine, a natural anti-bacterial agent. The study found that users of the old Viadent were eight to 11 times more likely to develop leukoplakia than non-users. (Read about another dangerous "natural" product.)

Warning signs
If you've read this far, maybe you're worried about oral cancer. The signs are fairly straightforward, says Hartig.

A growth or ulcer in the mouth that fails to improve in about two weeks.

A lump in the neck- usually not tender or painful -- that fails to go away by itself.

If caught early, oral cancers tend to be treatable and curable, Hartig says. Nonetheless, some people, especially alcoholics who are already at higher risk, don't visit the doctor until the cancer has spread and become harder to treat.

At that point, these folks may have two strikes against them...

We're batting a thousand in our bibliography.



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