Mouth cancer kills more Brits every year than cervical and testicular cancer combined yet many of us simply do not know enough about the risks to protect ourselves, a new poll1 has revealed.
A new nationwide survey in aid of Mouth Cancer Action Month has found that too many of us remain unaware of the major causes of mouth cancer including; smoking, excess alcohol consumption, poor diet, oral sex and kissing.
This follows new findings from Cancer Research UK showing that mouth cancer is becoming an increasingly common problem in Britain.
One of the most disturbing findings from the poll was that one in five do not know that smoking causes mouth cancer. In actual fact, smoking, and other tobacco use, is the leading cause of mouth cancer, accounting for roughly two in every three cases.
Smokers are three times more likely than non-smokers to develop mouth cancer as the chemicals transform saliva into a deadly cocktail that damages cells in the mouth and can turn them cancerous.
Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, the campaign organisers, said of the study: “These results are particularly concerning and demonstrate how little is known about mouth cancer. Cases of mouth cancer have increased by more than a third in the last decade alone, which means it is becoming increasingly important that we know what to look out for so that we can take the necessary measures to protect ourselves against it.
“Throughout Mouth Cancer Action Month during November we want to raise awareness of mouth cancer. By understanding the risk factors as well as being able to spot the early warning signs and symptoms we can get more cancers diagnosed at an early stage which dramatically increases the chances of successful treatment.”
The poll of more than 2,000 people also highlighted a number of worrying myths around the causes of mouth cancer.
Half of those surveyed (50 per cent) thought ‘drug use’ was related to mouth cancer while others incorrectly believed hot and spicy foods (6 per cent) and obesity (7 per cent) were linked to the disease.
“These factors may have other major effects on our health but they are not directly related to mouth cancer. It is important that we are more aware of the health of our mouth and what could potentially put us in danger,” added Dr Carter.
The myths identified in the poll did not just extend to the risk factors however. Many of us were also unable to identify the signs of mouth cancer, with almost half of those surveyed believing gum disease is a sign of mouth cancer.
“While gum disease is a very serious matter it is not related to mouth cancer. Instead people should be on the lookout for mouth ulcers which do not heal within three weeks, red or while patches in the mouth and any unusual swellings, if they have any of these signs then they should visit a dentist or doctor as soon as possible.
“If in doubt, get checked out.”
The number of mouth cancers diagnosed has increased by a third in the last decade alone, making it one of the UK’s fastest increasing cancers. Mouth cancer rates are also predicted to continue to rise by 15 per cent by 2030.
Dr Carter added: “As part of Mouth Cancer Action Month, the British Dental Health Foundation and campaign sponsors Denplan, are asking everybody to be ‘mouthaware’ and be more alert for any changes that might occur inside the mouth.
“Early detection of mouth cancer can give you a near 90 per cent chance of survival. If you present with symptoms that you have been unaware of or have left for too long, your chances of surviving can drop to 50 per cent. Keeping regular dental appointments and visiting your dentist if you notice any changes inside the mouth really could save your life.”
1 Research conducted on behalf of the British Dental Health Foundation by Atomik Research, September 2015. Sample size: 2,024