More than 6,700 people in the UK were diagnosed with mouth cancer last year. The disease has increased by a third in the last decade, and remains one of the few cancers predicted to rise in the future. Mouth cancer claims over 2,000 lives every year – more than cervical and testicular cancer combined.
There are factors that increase the chance of developing the disease, but mouth cancer can affect anybody – that’s why raising awareness of this silent killer is so important.
Mouth Cancer Action Month
Throughout November 2014, the British Dental Health Foundation aims to get more mouth cancers diagnosed early. When caught in the early stages, there’s a 90% chance of surviving the disease. But late diagnosis slashes the survival rate to just 50%.
Signs and symptoms
Check your teeth and gums when you clean your teeth. If you notice anything unusual, see your dentist. Regular dental checkups are essential. When examining your mouth, your dentist can see problems in their early stages that you can’t see yourself – including mouth cancer.
The key things to remember are:
- Don’t leave a mouth ulcer unattended for more than three weeks
- Don’t ignore an unusual lump, swelling or red and white patches in your mouth
- If in doubt, get it checked out – early detection could save your life
What causes mouth cancer?
Understanding the risk factors that can lead to mouth cancer will help everyone make better choices that can help avoid the disease:
More than half of cases in the UK are linked to a poor diet. Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, especially those rich in rich in vitamins A, C and E, keeps the body body fit and healthy and reduces the risk all cancers, including mouth cancer.
Tobacco and alcohol
Tobacco and alcohol are behind most cases of mouth cancer. If tobacco and alcohol are consumed together the risk is even greater.
Tobacco in all its forms is harmful to health: cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and chewing tobacco with substances such as betel quid, gutkha and paan. If you smoke or are addicted to tobacco products get help from your doctor to stop.
Drinking alcohol to excess is linked to around a third of all cases of mouth cancer. To protect yourself, cut down the amount you drink. Moderate drinking, such as a glass of wine here and there is much safer than consuming a whole bottle in a single evening.
Over-exposure to sunlight increases the risk of cancer of the lips. Use a specialist lipscreen alongside your sunscreen if you’re going to be out in the sun a lot and avoid sunbeds.
Human papillomavirus (HPV)
HPV is the major cause of cervical cancer and affects the skin that lines the moist areas of the body. HPV can spread through oral sex, and research now suggests that it could soon rival smoking and drinking as one of the main causes of mouth cancer. Practicing safe sex and limiting the number of partners may reduce the chance of contracting HPV.
Get involved – #bluelipselfie
As part of Mouth Cancer Action Month, the BDA have launched the Blue Lip Selfie campaign. So if you want to support mouth cancer awareness, all you need to do is:
- Wear blue lipstick or a set of blue lips and take a selfie of yourself or alongside family, friends or colleagues
- Share your selfie on your Facebook or Twitter account using the hashtag #bluelipselfie
- Make a donation to the British Dental Health Foundation
If you’re worried about mouth cancer, please contact Pure Dental Solutions on 01785 213333 or book an appointment.