Mouth cancer awareness month aims to open eyes and ears about this fast-growing health issue.

Cancer of the mouth claims more victims each year than cervical and testicular cancers combined – and outnumbers those killed on our roads.

Figures show diagnoses are up 40% in a decade. So, what is causing this epidemic and how can we mitigate the risk factors?

Well, nobody will be surprised to learn that smoking and drinking are crucial factors as is a diet that is not rich in vegetables and vitamins. Men over 50 are the biggest risk group but also those with missing teeth. The incidences related to sexually transmitted diseases is also on the rise.

More than 2,000 people in the UK die each year but early diagnosis could slash this figure. That's why Mouth Cancer awareness month in November is an ideal time to as your dentist for that all important check-up.

Stats from British dental Health Foundation

  • Latest figures show that, there were 6,767 people diagnosed with mouth cancer in the UK
  • That’s 18 people every day – one person diagnosed every 77 minutes
  • Mouth cancer cases have increased by a third in the last decade and it is one of few cancers that experts predict will continue to increase in the coming years
  • Mouth cancer is ranked the 16th most common cancer in the UK
  • The lifetime risk of developing mouth cancer is 1 in 84 for men and 1 in 160 for women
  • Cancer of the tongue and oral cavity are the most common forms of mouth cancer, followed then by the throat.  Lip, neck and other mouth cancers make up the rest of cases
  • Mouth cancer is twice as common in men than women
  • 86% of cases are diagnosed in those over 50
  • Mouth cancer rates per population are significantly higher in Scotland compared with England, Northern Ireland and Wales
  • Rates are much higher in white males, however those in Asian males are similar
  • More than 90% of mouth cancers in men and 85% in women are linked to lifestyle and environmental factors

Risk factors

Two-thirds of cases are linked to smoking including secondary smoking.  A third is also associated with excess alcohol. Poor diet is also a factor but it must be stressed that this is due to vitamin deficiency not foods such as red meat and bacon butties. For those with missing teeth, the risk of cancer increases 60-fold. Mouth cancer is 70% more common in those whose family have a history of the disease. However early detection can result in survival outcomes of 90%

What can we do?

Awareness of the condition is critical, hence the launch of Mouth Cancer Awareness Month. Typical signs can be so common that many people would not think of troubling their dentist or doctor. Ulcers, red and white blotches around the mouth, lengthy sore throats and lumps all need to be checked out if symptoms persist. If any of these conditions last for three weeks it is vital they are examined by a healthcare professional.  

  1. Brush teeth and floss regularly
  2. Do not smoke
  3. Drink alcohol in moderation
  4. Limit exposure to the sun
  5. Eat cancer fighting foods
  6. Take regular exercise
  7. Self exam regularly
  8. See your dentist every six months.