26 November 2018

A leading health charity is urging Brits to be more aware of how their lifestyle choices can increase their risk of mouth cancer.

The Oral Health Foundation is calling for the UK to be more Mouthaware, following new research which shows a systemic misunderstanding of mouth cancer and what causes it.

The newly-published State of Mouth Cancer UK Report finds two in three (68%) British adults do not consider themselves to be at any risk of developing mouth cancer, despite many admitting to making lifestyle choices that contribute to the disease.

One-in-two smokers (50%) do not realise tobacco is linked to mouth cancer. Just under half (48%) of those who exceed the government’s weekly alcohol intake are unaware that drinking to excess increases the risk of mouth cancer.1

More than three in four (76%) sexually-active adults do not know that oral sex, which is how the human papillomavirus (HPV) is transmitted, is a risk factor of mouth cancer.1

The charity, currently campaigning as part of Mouth Cancer Action Month, is looking to spread awareness of the causes of mouth cancer, to highlight the importance of recognising whether you are at greater risk.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, says: “More than half of all mouth cancer cases are linked to lifestyle factors. This includes smoking, drinking alcohol excessively and sexual contact. Our findings show that there is clearly not enough information about mouth cancer and the risks associated with it.

“One of the biggest problems we face in getting more people to make healthier choices is that many are guilty of thinking “it can’t happen to me,” but sadly, it could.

“Cases of mouth cancer have increased by 135% over the last generation and for those who smoke and drink too much alcohol, the likelihood of developing the disease increases by 30 times.

“The good news is that by altering lifestyle choices and making healthier decisions for your body, you can give yourself a better chance of avoiding the disease.”

Latest statistics show that there are 15.8 million smokers across Britain and 8.6 million people who regularly drink over the weekly recommended limit of 14 units.2

There are now more than 8,300 new cases of mouth cancer every year in the UK,1 making it one of the country’s fastest-growing cancers.

Mouth Cancer Action Month aims to raise awareness of mouth cancer and save lives by promoting the values of prevention and early detection.

The charity campaign runs throughout November and is sponsored by Simplyhealth Professionals, with further support from Dentists’ Provident.

Chief Dental Officer at Simplyhealth Professionals, Dr Henry Clover, adds: “It is really important to remember that even if you don’t smoke or drink, it doesn’t mean you are not at risk of developing mouth cancer.

“Be pro-active in checking for the signs of mouth cancer. Look for long-lasting mouth ulcers, red or white patches and unusual lumps and swellings. Mouth cancer can appear in the mouth, lips, tongue and throat. Be vigilant and recognise the signs, as well as the causes.

“If you think you are at higher risk, make sure you keep to regular dental appointments. By spotting mouth cancer early, it gives you the best possible chance of beating the disease. So, if you notice any of these signs or anything else unusual, make sure you visit your dentist immediately.”

Despite being historically known as a disease which primarily effects older men, there has been a substantial rise in the number of cases in both women and younger adults in general.

Mother of one, Laura Taylor, was only 23-years-old when she was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue in September 2017.

“Age is just a number, I was 23, a non-smoker and didn’t drink alcohol, yet I still was diagnosed with mouth cancer,” Laura says.

“Early diagnosis is key so please check your mouth, if you notice anything abnormal, get it checked out by visiting the dentist immediately.”

Download the full State of Mouth Cancer UK Report 2018/19.