Facts and figures

With your support, Mouth Cancer Action Month reaches around 60 million people each year with messages about the importance of early detection and living a healthy lifestyle. But there is still more work to do. Around 18 people every day are diagnosed with mouth cancer. Half would leave a mouth ulcer for more than a month before seeking medical advice. One in three are unsure if they are at risk of mouth cancer while more than a third of people do not realise smoking tobacco is linked to the disease.

By learning more about mouth cancer, we can just help lower our risk of developing the disease, but we can also pass our knowledge on to those we love and care for too. By understanding more about how healthy lifestyle choices can increase our chances of staying cancer free, we can also improve the state of our oral health and general wellbeing.

Below is a snapshot of mouth cancer in the UK. As you will see, we still have much to do but with your support we can help overcome this growing threat and save thousands of lives together.

Key facts about mouth cancer

  • Latest figures show that in 2014, there were 7,603 people diagnosed with mouth cancer in the UK.
  • That’s 18 people every day – one person diagnosed every 77 minutes.
  • Mouth cancer cases have increased by a third in the last decade…
  • …and it is one of few cancers that experts predict will continue to increase in the coming years.
  • The lifetime risk of developing mouth cancer is 1 in 84 for men and 1 in 160 for women.
  • Cancer of the tongue and oral cavity are the most common forms of mouth cancer, followed then by the throat.  Lip, neck and other mouth cancers make up the rest of cases.

Who mouth cancer effects

  • Mouth cancer is twice as common in men than women.
  • 86% of cases are diagnosed in those over 50.
  • Mouth cancer rates per population are significantly higher in Scotland compared with England, Northern Ireland and Wales.
  • Rates are much higher in white males, however those in Asian males are similar.
  • More than 90% of mouth cancers in men and 85% in women are linked to lifestyle and environmental factors.

The risk factors

  • Two thirds of mouth cancer cases are linked to smoking tobacco.
  • A morning cigarette doubles the chances of developing the disease.
  • Smokers put themselves at almost three times higher risk.
  • …but cigars and pipe smokers put themselves at greater risk.
  • Ex-smokers reduce their risk by a third.
  • Second-hand smoke significantly increases the risk for those who have never smoked.
  • Smokeless tobacco use can increase the risk of developing mouth cancer by 15 times.
  • Drinking alcohol to excess is linked to around a third of all cases.
  • Those who smoke and drink to excess put themselves at risk by up to 30 times.
  • More than half of cases in the UK are linked to a poor diet.
  • Solar radiation from the sun has been linked to cancer of the lip.
  • The human papillomavirus (HPV) is estimated to overtake smoking as the number one cause of mouth cancers in the future.
  • Mouth cancer is 2.5 times higher in those with periodontal disease.
  • …and is 60 times higher in people with six or more missing teeth.
  • Mouth cancer is 12 to 16 times higher in those who have previous been diagnosed with cancer.
  • Mouth cancer is 70% more common in those whose family have a history of the disease.

A silent killer

  • More than 2,000 people lose their life to mouth cancer in the UK every year.
  • There are more deaths from mouth cancer than there are through road traffic accidents.
  • Mouth cancer also claims more lives per year than cervical and testicular cancer combined.

Survival rates

  • Although the number of mouth cancer cases have increased steadily over the last decade, more people are being treated successfully and living for longer.
  • Early detection for mouth cancer results in a survival outcome of 90%….
  • However, delayed diagnosis means survival rates plummet to as little as 50%.

What we think about mouth cancer

  • One person in ten is unaware of the threat of mouth cancer.
  • Almost half are more worried about mouth cancer than any other type of cancer.
  • One in four believes they are at risk from mouth cancer.
  • More than one in four are unaware smoking is leading cause of mouth cancer.
  • Almost half support calls for plain packaging.
  • Almost two-thirds support calls for minimum alcohol pricing.
  • Three times as many people support the HPV jabs for boys than are opposed to it.
  • Very few people able to identify HPV as leading cause of mouth cancer.
  • More than one in five men think HPV can be transmitted like a common cold.
  • Almost half believe investing in dentistry would help to reduce cancer incidences.
  • More than one in two think e-cigarettes are safe alternative to smoking; half are aware shisha pipes aren’t safe; two thirds are aware chewing tobacco isn’t safe; around half are aware smokeless tobacco isn’t safe.
  • Six in ten of us know somebody with cancer.