Mouth Cancer Action Month is a campaign, run by the British Dental Health Foundation and sponsored by Denplan, which aims to raise awareness of the condition. The campaign runs throughout November and focuses on educating people about the risks of mouth cancer, its causes and symptoms and what preventative measures can be taken.
Mouth cancer is one of the few types of cancer still on the rise. It is estimated that during the next decade around 60,000 people in the UK will be diagnosed with the disease. Without early detection, half of them will die.
The causes of mouth cancer are well known to health professionals, but not to the general public. In a recent survey of 2000 people by Denplan, not one could correctly name the four main causes.
There is plenty you can do to reduce your risk of developing mouth cancer.
Tobacco use is currently the leading cause of mouth cancer. This includes cigarette smoking, as well as smokeless tobacco use and hookah/shisha waterpipes. Many tobacco products contain carcinogenic chemicals that damage DNA, leading to cancer. It is estimated that tobacco use causes about 70% of oral cancers in men and 55% in women in the UK.
Excessive alcohol consumption can increase your risk of developing mouth cancer by up to four times. Those who both smoke and drink to excess are up to 30 times more likely to develop the disease, as alcohol aids absorption of tobacco in the mouth.
The human papillomavirus virus (HPV) is transmitted via oral sex. The virus is increasingly being linked to mouth cancer, with young people particularly at risk. Experts have suggested that HPV may overtake smoking and alcohol as the leading cause of mouth cancer within the next decade. However, there is some evidence to suggest that survival rates for mouth cancer caused by HPV are higher.
There is evidence that eating a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and omega 3 can reduce your risk of developing mouth cancer. Drinking one cup of coffee a day and taking vitamin C supplements has also been associated with a decreased risk. Around half of mouth cancer cases are linked to a poor diet.
Dentists are trained to spot the first signs of mouth cancer, so it's important to raise any oral health concerns with them. If you've noticed any unusual mouth ulcers, lumps or patches of white or red skin in your mouth, make sure you get it checked out. Regular dental visits also benefit your overall oral health. Brushing your teeth and flossing daily reduces your risk of developing tooth decay and gum disease, which in turn have also been linked to the development of mouth cancer.
One of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of developing mouth cancer is to stop smoking. Quitting smoking benefits your health in a multitude of other ways as well, such as decreasing the risk of lung, throat and other cancers, as well as heart disease, high blood pressure and infertility.
Here at HealthExpress, we know that giving up smoking can be very difficult, due to the extremely addictive nature of nicotine. Fortunately there are a variety of options available to help you kick the habit. Treatments such as Champix work to reduce cravings and prevent the effects of nicotine, increasing your chance of long-term success. You can find out more about your options for stop smoking treatments on our information page.
For further information about the links between smoking and mouth cancer, take a look at our infographic below.