The beloved reality star chewed tobacco for 12 years, which "rotted his teeth"
Published May 16, 2022
Reality television personality Mike “Sugar Bear” Thompson, 50, ex-fiancé of June Edith “Mama June” Shannon, 42, can breathe a sigh of relief because he’s officially been cleared of having gum cancer, however, he’ll undergo surgery next month to remove a tumor.
According to TMZ, Los Angeles, Calif.-based dentist Dr. Tania Farshi found signs of gum cancer (a type of head and neck cancer) in Sugar Bear’s mouth last month during a cosmetic appointment for a set of new teeth.
The apparent gum cancer signs prompted Sugar Bear to visit cancer specialist Dr. Babak Larian, who performed a biopsy on Sugar Bear’s gums. The results came back last week, and it was revealed that Sugar Bear has a benign (noncancerous) tumor growing on his salivary gland.
There’s a chance the tumor could eventually become cancerous, so Sugar Bear will undergo surgery to remove it next month.
Dr. Farshi reportedly spotted the signs of gum cancer in the lower part of Sugar Bear’s mouth. The 50-year-old reality television star reportedly chewed tobacco for roughly 12 years. The habit ended up “rotting his teeth.”
Earlier this month, some ghastly photos of his teeth were shared online. We’ll share the photos below.
Graphic Content Warning:
His declining oral health caused Sugar Bear, the father of 16-year-old Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson and McIntyre, Ga., native, to seek a “full makeover,” which included dental work, a hair transplant, Botox, fillers, liposuction, a tummy tuck, a new haircut and a fresh shave.
The makeover idea was also allegedly sparked by his recent divorce from Jennifer Thompson (née Lamb). The couple wed in 2017, a few years after Mama June, now 42, ended her 16-month engagement with Sugar Bear in 2014 because of reports that he was cheating.
The news that Sugar Bear could have gum cancer reportedly turned his world upside down, but now that he’s been cleared and tumor-removal surgery has been scheduled, he can get back to his highly anticipated makeover.
The family became famous after Mama June and Honey Boo Boo, then 5 years told, appeared on the popular TLC show, Toddlers & Tiaras, in 2011. Their fame prompted a spin-off show, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, which premiered on TLC in August 2012. The show ran for four seasons, but was abruptly canceled while filming the fifth season. Mama June and Sugar Bear also appeared on the WeTV show Marriage Bootcamp: Reality Stars prior to calling off their engagement in 2014.
Gum cancer is a type of head and neck cancer. It begins when cells in the upper or lower gums grow out of control and form lesions or tumors. In Sugar Bear’s case, the discovery was made on his lower gums.
It’s much more common to know someone a head or neck cancer like gum cancer now-a-days than it was several decades ago. That’s because of the strong connection between head and neck cancers and the human papillomavirus, or HPV, which is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States.
It’s unknown what exactly could have caused Sugar Bear’s suspected gum cancer, however, HPV may cause more than 90% of head and neck cancers.
“From the 1980s to the 2010s, the rate of HPV-related head and neck cancers has gone up by 300 percent,” Dr. Ted Teknos, a head and neck cancer specialist, and president and scientific director of University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center in Cleveland, Ohio, told SurvivorNet during a previous interview.
The vast majority of humans in the United States — both men and women — will eventually get infected with HPV, according to Dr. Allen Ho, a head and neck surgeon at Cedars-Sinai.
“The important thing to know about HPV is that there are many different strains, and only a couple of them tend to be more cancer-inducing,” he said. “Probably less than 1 percent of the population who get infected happen to have the cancer-causing virus that somehow their immune system fails to clear, and over 15 to 20 years it develops from a viral infection into a tumor, and a cancer.”
It’s unclear whether HPV alone is enough to trigger the changes in your cells that lead to oral cancers like gum cancer, or whether this happens in combination with other risk factors like smoking. (In Sugar Bear’s case, he chewed tobacco for years.) Of course, some people who develop a form of oral cancer have no known risk factors for the condition. Genetics can play a role in this cancer, too.
Head and neck cancers are unique in that it’s usually preventable with the HPV vaccine. And that’s why those eligible should get vaccinated against HPV, SurvivorNet experts say.
The vaccine is typically given to children before they are sexually active, as HPV is transmitted through sexual contact.
And contrary to some detrimental misinformation circulated online, the HPV vaccine is entirely safe.
There are virtually no side effects with this vaccine, Dr. Jonathan Berek, director of the Women’s Cancer Center at Stanford Medical Center, previously told SurvivorNet.
It’s “incredibly safe,” he added.