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November is Mouth Cancer Awareness Month PDF Print Email

This month is Mouth Cancer Action Month but a new survey highlights the fact that many people are still completely unaware of the risks.


In a recent survey over 2000 respondents were asked if they knew the four main risk factors for mouth cancer and no-one could name all four – smoking, excess drinking, bad diet and HPV (The Human Papillomvirus), which is often transmitted by oral sex.


Unfortunately, a lot of people wrongly thought bad oral health and not brushing teeth was responsible while others thought stress, anaemia or snoring could cause the disease.


Cases of mouth cancer exceeded 7500 last year (2012) and these are expected to increase.  Mouth Cancer Action Month in November is organised by the British Dental Health Foundation and is dedicated to raising awareness of the disease, including the risk factors and the signs and symptoms.


Dr Nigel Carter OBE, The Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, hopes the campaign will raise awareness of mouth cancer across the UK.


Dr Carter said: "For no-one to be able to correctly identify what the four causes of the disease are is both surprising and worrying. The campaign continues to play a crucial role in educating the public about the disease, and it's clear from the survey we still have some way to go.
"Tobacco use and drinking alcohol to excess can increase the risk of developing mouth cancer by up to 30 times. Experts forecast the human papillomavirus (HPV) will overtake smoking as the principle cause of the disease within the next ten years, and almost half of cases in the UK have been linked to poor diet.

"The campaign is a great opportunity for the public to learn about the risks and what to look out for. Ulcers that do not heal within three weeks, red and white patches and unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth should not be ignored. Our advice is clear - if in doubt, get checked out."


Your local pharmacy is a great place to seek advice.  Open at convenient times, accessible and you don’t need an appointment.  The pharmacist will be able to advise you on health issues and point you in the direction of products that may help – they usually stock a large range.  They will also be able to offer support and advice with free products to help give up smoking for good.


• 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, and ex England cricketer Geoffrey Boycott.
• 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 papillomavirus (HPV), transmitted through oral sex, could overtake tobacco and alcohol as the main risk factor within the coming decade.