When it comes to awareness, mouth cancer finds itself well down the list of high profile cancers people are aware of. Couple this with the fact mouth cancer kills more people than testiclular and cervical cancers combined, and you’ve got a killer too few people know about.
The number of new mouth cancer cases has increased over 45 per cent in the last 10 years, and the British Dental Health Foundation is offering the following information for anyone seeking to find out more about mouth cancer.
Ten facts about mouth cancer
1. The main risk factors for mouth cancer are tobacco and alcohol use, and people who both drink and use tobacco are up to 30 times more likely to develop the disease. Ethnic chewing tobacco such as paan and gutkha is particularly harmful.
2. The possibility of mouth cancer remains high for ex-smokers for up to 20 years after kicking the habit compared to non-smokers.
3. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) transmitted by oral sex is an increasing cause of mouth cancer and could overtake tobacco and alcohol as the main risk factor within the next 10 years.
4. Mouth cancer is twice more common in men than in women.
5. 87 per cent of cases in the UK occur in people aged 50 or over.
6. If mouth cancer is detected early, survival chances are around 90 per cent in most cases after five years. Conversely, without it survival rate drops to 50 per cent.
7. Too many people have mouth cancer spotted too late as they have not kept up regular dental checks.
8. There are almost 6,000 new cases of mouth cancer diagnosed in the UK each year. Worldwide, this figure extends to over 405,000.
9. In the UK, one person dies every five hours from the disease.
10. There is no truth in the idea mouthwashes containing alcohol increase the risk of mouth cancer.
Five tips for reducing the risk of mouth cancer
In addition to following the Foundation’s three key rules for good oral health1, the following tips are recommended for reducing the risk of mouth cancer:
1. There are self examinations which you can carry out, including searching for ulcers (especially ones that don’t heal within three weeks); red and white patches in the mouth; and unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth.
2. To keep your mouth healthy when exposed to the sun, use protective sun cream and barrier cream on your lips.
3. Take time to consider how your lifestyle could be putting you at risk. Stop smoking, reduce alcohol intake and keep to a good, balanced diet.
4. Consider practising safe sex and limiting the amount of partners you have to reduce the risk of contracting HPV.
5. If you are a heavy smoker and/or drinker, arrange more frequent check-ups with your dentist.