1 November 2018

A new report looking into mouth cancer in the United Kingdom reveals a dangerous and widespread lack of awareness about the disease.

The UK’s first State of Mouth Cancer Report highlights the sharp rise in the number of mouth cancer cases and finds most Brits are unaware of the signs and symptoms associated with the disease.      

The eye-opening report shows nearly 8,300 people-a-year are now diagnosed with mouth cancer – a 49% increase compared to a decade ago.

According to the report, just under half (45%) of British adults admit to not having any understanding about mouth cancer.  Three in four (75%) say they do not know the symptoms while more than four in five (82%) do not know where mouth cancer appears.

Published by the Oral Health Foundation and Simplyhealth Professionals to coincide with November’s Mouth Cancer Action Month, the findings also show a severe lack of awareness regarding the risk factors linked with mouth cancer.

Speaking on the release of the report, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, says: “We have published this report to highlight the need for greater awareness of mouth cancer.  It is extremely concerning to see the lack of basic knowledge about the disease, especially as it continues to affect more people every year.

“For so long, mouth cancer seems to have gone under the radar. It is now time for us to take notice and learn what we need to, so that we can help protect ourselves and others around us.

“It is so important to understand what is most likely to put us at risk, how we can spot mouth cancer, and where we can go if we see anything out of the ordinary.”

Smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol to excess, the human papillomavirus HPV (transmitted through oral sex), and poor diet are the leading causes of the disease.

The early warning signs of mouth cancer are mouth ulcers that last longer than three weeks, red or white patches and unusual lumps and swellings.

The disease can appear in the mouth, lips, head and neck.

Dr Catherine Rutland, Head of Professional Support Services at Simplyhealth Professionals, adds: “We must use this report, along with campaigns like Mouth Cancer Action Month, as a springboard to help increase awareness of mouth cancer.

“It is important to know how and where mouth cancer can appear and to be alert to any changes in and around the mouth.  Regular dental visits remain crucial to spotting mouth cancer early, as your dentist will examine you for mouth cancer during every routine appointment. However, being vigilant in between appointments and checking your own mouth will also help to find any early signs and symptoms. If you notice any of the signs, make an appointment with your dentist who will be able to examine you further.

“Mouth cancer is beatable, but we have to act quickly.  An early diagnosis is vital and can not only save a life but can also improve quality of life.

“You can help to raise awareness of mouth cancer by taking and sharing your #BlueLipSelfie on social media and on the gallery at www.bluelipselfie.com  to drive everyone to be more mouthaware.”

A summary of the key findings

  • New cases of mouth cancer in the UK have now reached 8,302 a year.
  • This has increased by 49% in the last decade and by 135% compared with 20 years' ago.
  • 56% of mouth cancers appear on the tongue and tonsils.
  • Last year, 2,722 Brits lost their life the mouth cancer.
  • The ten-year survival rate is between 19% and 58%, depending on where the cancer strikes and how early it is diagnosed.
  • Almost nine in ten (88%) British adults have now heard of mouth cancer. However, only 8% are confident about their knowledge of the disease.
  • Three in four (75%) do not know the major signs and symptoms for mouth cancer.
  • Awareness on the major risk factors of mouth cancer remains low.
  • Better lifestyle choices, earlier diagnosis and improved access to dentistry are some of the key challenges in confronting mouth cancer.
  • Calls for more investment in community dentistry, as well as a catch-up programme for HPV vaccinations.   

The full State of Mouth Cancer Report is available to read in full or download by clicking here