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Lack Of Mouth Cancer Symptoms Awareness Deemed "Alarming" PDF Print Email

Lack Of Mouth Cancer Symptoms Awareness Deemed "Alarming"


A new nationwide survey which has revealed a worrying lack of public awareness into mouth cancer symptoms has been described as "alarming" by one of the UK's leading health experts.


Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, made the comments following a study commissioned by the oral healthy charity discovered that more than four in five (81 per cent) failed to know any symptoms of the disease.


The survey, which questioned more than 800 people, looked particularly into the behaviours and attitudes of children aged 12 - 16 and their parents, in a bid to discover their level of understanding in a disease which is progressively affecting a greater number of younger people.


Results found that more than three in every four parents (76 per cent) failed to recognise any early warning signs of the disease which is diagnosed in 6,000 people in the UK every year. Of the young people asked, six out of seven (85 per cent) 12 to 16 year olds admitted to not knowing one of the early symptoms of mouth cancer.


Perhaps more worryingly, in a disease notoriously known for affecting men, the awareness of males was particularly low with only one in six (17 per cent) knowing any of the symptoms.


Dr Carter said: "The lack of awareness towards a disease which has increased by nearly 50 per cent in the last ten years is truly alarming. It is really important that everyone knows the warning signs for mouth cancer. They include ulcers which do not heal within three weeks, red and white patches in the mouth and unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth.  Our message to everyone is 'If in doubt, get checked out.'


"In the past mouth cancer was a disease which predominately affected males over 40 but this is no longer necessarily true. Changes in lifestyles amongst women and younger people and their attitudes towards drinking and smoking have meant that these groups are increasingly in danger.


"It is vital that parents in particular know the symptoms so they can then pass this knowledge on to their children."


The British Dental Health Foundation conducted the survey in the run up to Mouth Cancer Action Month, which begins on 1 November 2011. Over two thirds of mouth cancer cases are detected at a late stage, reducing chances of survival by half while early detection transforms survival chances to more than 90 per cent.


"Early diagnosis makes a huge difference to your chance of survival. We hope this campaign will help raise the awareness of the symptoms and early warnings signs and encourage people to take the important first step of going to their doctor or dentist if they have concerns."


About Mouth Cancer

•     Around 60,000 people in the UK will be diagnosed with mouth cancer over the next decade.

•    Sufferers of the condition include American actor Michael Douglas, BBC Broadcaster Danny Baker and ex England and Manchester United Football Captain Bryan Robson.

•    Tobacco use is still considered the main cause of mouth cancer. According to the World Health Organisation, up to half of current smokers will die of a tobacco-related illness - including mouth cancer.

•     Drinking to excess can increase the risk of mouth cancer by four times.  Those who smoke and drink are up to 30 times more likely to develop mouth cancer.

•     Mouth cancer is twice more common in men than in women, though an increasing number of women are being diagnosed with the disease.

•    Age is another factor, with people over the age of 40 more likely to be diagnosed, though more young people are now being affected than previously.

•    Poor diet is linked to a third of all cancer cases, and experts suggest the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), transmitted through oral sex, could overtake tobacco and alcohol as the main risk factor within the coming decade.

Research Findings


The Foundation surveyed 802 respondents in September 2011, including 183 people aged 12-16 and 206 parents of children aged 12-16.

•    81% of adults don't know the symptoms of mouth cancer.

•    85% of young people aged 12 to 16 don't know the symptoms of mouth cancer.

•    76% of parents with children between the ages of 12 and 16 don't know the symptoms of mouth cancer.