Mouth Cancer Action Week 16-22 November 2008
The UK’s leading oral health charity has revealed that it is concerned about Britain’s ‘total lack of mouth cancer knowledge’ after a national survey found that one in four people have never even heard of the condition.
Mouth cancer kills more people than cervical cancer and testicular cancer combined in the UK and yet the National Dental Survey 2007, conducted by the British Dental Health Foundation in association with HSA, found that knowledge of the condition is dangerously low. Dr Nigel Carter, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, commented: “Smoking is the most common cause of mouth cancer, but alcohol is almost as dangerous – and the two together increase your risk by up to 30 times.”
“It is a big worry that one in two people are completely unaware that alcohol is a risk factor for mouth cancer – especially as a significant proportion believes that you can catch it from kissing. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly clear that people know very little about this condition.”
The nationwide survey found that one in four people think mouth cancer is caused by spicy foods with a further one in six believing that hot drinks and kissing are responsible. Dr Carter, commented: “Every five hours, someone in the UK dies as a result of mouth cancer – and the number of new cases is increasing all the time. Early detection increases survival chances from one in two to nine out of 10 so it is vital that people are aware of their mouths.”
Dr Sunita Verma from Sparkle Dental Boutique, Hanwell says “When patients come to us for an examination, they are screened routinely for soft tissue conditions including mouth cancer. In all these years, I have only ever come across one patient, who had a strange white patch in her mouth which was later diagnosed as mouth cancer. This patient used to chew paan or betel leaf, as many Asian patients do. As a result of the early diagnosis, she was able to have surgery to remove the cancerous cells and now with regular check ups, she is absolutely fine.”
Sunita says “If you have any ulcers that haven’t healed after three weeks, any lumps, or any red or white patches in the mouth then it is advisable to visit your dentist immediately”.
Useful Facts and Figures about Mouth Cancer
What groups are most at risk:
- Tobacco use and drinking alcohol are still the main risk factors and are thought to account for around 80% of mouth cancers. People who smoke and drink to excess are up to 30 times more likely to develop the condition.
- Mouth cancer is more likely to affect those over 40 years of age, though an increasing number of young people are developing the condition – especially women.
- 50 years ago mouth cancer was five times more common in men than women – now it is only twice as common as more and more women are diagnosed.
What is the mortality rate?
- Around 1600 – 1800 people die of mouth cancer in the UK every year – or an average one every five hours.
- Early detection and treatment is critical as it considerably increases survival chances, allows for simpler treatment and results in a better quality of life.
- 27% believed spicy foods to be a main risk factor – which it is NOT!
- 16% even thought hot drinks could cause mouth cancer, whilst another 15% thought that kissing could cause it!
- There is increasing evidence which shows that oral sex can be a contributory factor in passing on the disease.
Article courtesy of the British Dental Health Foundation