60% increase in new cases of mouth cancer

February 26, 2015

In the past 12 years, the UK has seen a 60% increase in new cases of mouth cancer. It is a hugely significant statistic and it is vital that people are aware of the risks and are checked regularly for signs of mouth cancer – early detection saves lives.

Professional check-ups and regular self-examinations are the best route to early detection of mouth cancer. Early diagnosis saves lives, improving survival chances from just half of cases to more than 90 per cent.

Early warning signs include ulcers that do not heal within three weeks, red and white patches in the mouth and unusual changes in the mouth. Lumps and bumps that are present in the jaw or neck for more than 3 weeks should also be checked out by a dentist. A sore throat or hoarseness of the voice that persists for more than 6 weeks also needs an urgent check-up. Unusually, if a tooth becomes mobile with out any obvious dental cause, it needs urgent attention too.

So what causes mouth cancer? Around three in every four cases are linked to tobacco and alcohol so it is important that smokers are encouraged to quit and alcohol is consumed in moderation. Smoking and drinking increases the risk by up to 30 times as much!!! The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), transmitted via oral sex, and poor diets are also linked to mouth cancer. Unfortunately, you look at the risk factors of smoking, drinking, HPV transmission during sexual activity and a poor diet and the bigger picture has ‘student’ written all over it! The younger population particularly have a shockingly poor awareness of oral cancer so it is important that parents are aware and educate their teens and young people.

Exposure of the lips to the sun can result in abnormal changes too. If a cold sore does not heal within 3 weeks it should be checked out by a dentist. Genetic factors also play a part as with other cancers so it is important in light of the escalation of mouth cancer that everyone takes screening very seriously. Any member of the public aged 16 and over should be screened annually and should know how to self -screen too on a monthly basis. These painless, quick checks might just save your life!