News & blogs Blogs and vlogs How much are we willing to change our lifestyle choices to reduce our cancer risk? The majority of us have at least one or two bad habits we wish we could quit. For the most part they are relatively harmless: being late to appointments, which keeps people waiting; struggling to pick what you want on a menu, which is a pain for dinner dates; or being a serial snorer, which is a pain for everybody! In the grand scheme of things, being a little indecisive or struggling to get to places on time isn’t really hurting anyone, although anyone you go to lunch with might say differently! But when it comes to our health and well-being, are we willing to put a stop to the things we enjoy that are also harmful to us? New research conducted as part of Mouth Cancer Action Month, reveals that two in every three (66%) smokers would be unwilling to give up – even knowing that it makes them more likely to develop mouth cancer.1 It’s a similar story with alcohol. The survey also shows that more than half (58%) of those who drink alcohol would not be prepared to cut down, despite the health benefits of doing so.1 It’s fair to say that a lot of us might want to “have our cake and eat it too.” Smoking and drinking a lot of alcohol are habits that aren’t as harmless as we would like them to be, especially when it comes to mouth cancer. The majority of cases can be traced-back to one or both of these habits. Which begs the question, if we won’t give up bad habits like these, what can we do to make sure we don’t suffer too much from them? Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, believes that the answer is two-fold – improve your awareness and act quickly. Dr Carter says: “There’s no getting around it, old habits die hard. “The majority of us are guilty of having a bad habit that we struggle to curb. At the end of the day, we’re only human. “But, struggling to break a bad habit means that it’s even more important that we are aware of the impact it can have and what actions we need to take to address it. “Where mouth cancer is concerned, being alert to the early warning signs is of the utmost importance and genuinely could save your life.” The three biggest signs and symptoms not to ignore are mouth ulcers that do not heal within three weeks, red or white patches in the mouth and any unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth or head and neck area. If you notice any of these early warning signs, or any other unusual changes in your mouth or in the head and neck area, visit your dentist or doctor as soon as possible. The latest figures from the leading health charity show that there are over 8,300 new cases of mouth cancer each year, a number which has risen by 135% in the last two decades year on year. This is especially concerning given that the State of Mouth Cancer Report 2018/19 says that three in four of us (75%) do not know the common signs and symptoms of the deadly disease.2 “Making sure we are Mouthaware is an important step to take in protecting ourselves from the risks of any bad habit we might have,” Dr Carter adds. “The vast majority of mouth cancer cases can be linked to lifestyle choices like smoking and drinking. “Regular visits to the dentist are even more important if our habits put us at a higher risk of developing the disease. “Problems are often easier to fix the earlier they are spotted; this is certainly the case for mouth cancer. “So action and awareness are absolutely vital.” Mouth Cancer Action Month runs throughout November and aims to increase awareness of the disease by encouraging everybody to be Mouthaware by being able to recognise and act on any unusual changes in the mouth. The charity campaign is sponsored by Simplyhealth Professionals, with further support from Dentists’ Provident.