What is mouth cancer
Mouth cancer is generally defined as cancer that affects the mouth, which may include the lips, tongue, cheeks and throat. It can appear in different forms and can affect any or all parts of the mouth. It is a dangerous cancer that can and does cost lives.
What causes mouth cancer?
The biggest factors by far in mouth cancer are tobacco and alcohol. Cigarette, cigar and pipe smoking are the main forms of tobacco use in many parts of the world and can all increase the likelihood of developing the disease.
As well as smoking, consumption of alcohol also increases the risk of mouth cancer, with the risk even greater if tobacco and alcohol are used together.
Like the rest of your skin, over-exposure to sunlight is also a risk factor and can increase the risk of cancer of the lips.
Links between mouth cancer and the human papillomavirus (HPV)
Research conducted more recently has identified a link between mouth cancer and the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer and affects the skin that lines the moist areas of the body.
HPV can be spread through oral sex, and this latest research now suggests that HPV could soon rival smoking and drinking as one of the main causes of mouth cancer.
Practising safe sex and limiting the number of partners you have may help reduce your chances of getting HPV. Many people get HPV during their lives and for many this does not cause a problem.
In a positive move that will hopefully help reduce this risk, HPV vaccines for both girls and boys are now being introduced as routine. Although initially developed to fight cervical cancer, it is likely that they will also help to reduce the rates of mouth cancer. These vaccines are given at age 12 to 13 before sexual activity starts.
How many people suffer from mouth cancer?
According to figures published by the Oral Health Foundation, more than 8,300 people in the United Kingdom are now diagnosed with mouth cancer every year – an increase of almost 50% in the last decade.
The latest figures available reveal that mouth cancer claimed 2,722 lives in the UK last year. Sadly, many of these deaths occurred because the disease was caught too late.
Spotting the signs of mouth cancer
We encourage everyone to be aware of any unusual changes in the mouth and know what to do if anything out of the ordinary is noticed.
Our dental experts say: “The first line of defence against mouth cancer is yourself. Being able to identify mouth cancer at an early stage is vital for you being able to beat it.”
We encourage everybody to check their mouths regularly, paying particular attention to mouth ulcers that do not heal within three weeks. Other possible signs of mouth cancer are red and white patches in the mouth and lumps and swellings in the head and neck.
Are you worried about Mouth Cancer?
If you are worried about Mouth Cancer as you have noticed some changes in your oral health or have any questions about it, please get in touch today.