What Is Mouth Cancer and How Can You Prevent It?

November is Mouth Cancer Action Month, but what is mouth cancer and why do you need to know about it?

The first ever figures surrounding mouth cancer have just been released by the Oral Health Foundation detailing the current state of the cancer in the UK.

Shockingly the study found that 12% of people had not heard of mouth cancer, yet last year over 8,300 people were diagnosed and 2,700 died from it, meaning that it now accounts for 2% of all cancers diagnosed in the UK.

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As with any part of the human body there is the potential for mistakes to be made when your body is repairing and maintaining itself, which can result in cancer that can be traumatic and life threatening if not treated early. The key to combatting this is vigilance and minimising the risk of ever developing problems. Oral cancers are one the few types of cancers on the increase in the UK as a result of changes to people’s lifestyles, habits and exposure to changing viruses.

What Causes Mouth Cancer?

The key three risk factors for oral cancers are tobacco consumption, alcohol consumption and exposure to the Human Papilloma Virus. Tobacco consumption by smoking or by chewing causes a dramatic increase in the risk of oral cancer especially when in combination with alcohol consumption. The risk of oral cancer is lower for smoking and drinking separately but is still higher than for members of the public who neither smoke nor drink. The suspected cause for the increase in cases of mouth cancer in recent decades is the increasing prevalence of the human papilloma virus which is the same virus that causes warts ordinarily but in some cases can cause changes to cells which results in mouth cancers.

How Can You Prevent Mouth Cancer?

In the above study 75% of the people surveyed said they didn’t know the main signs and symptoms of the disease. The things to look out for in your own mouth are any unexplained abnormalities which appear and fail to resolve on their own. The things which should be viewed with particular suspicion are ulcers which do not heal after 2 weeks - especially if they are completely painless. Other things to keep an eye out for are changes in the colour of the skin in your mouth or if any bumps appear with no explanation. When you have your routine check-up your dentist will assess the whole of your mouth as well as your teeth to ensure there are no changes or areas of concern, but if you notice any changes that alarm you visiting your dentist should be your first port of call.

If you would like further information about Mouth Cancer Action Month or advice about what oral cancers are, what to look out for and the impact of cancer contact us or visit http://www.mouthcancer.org/. You can also watch the video below to check for oral cancer before coming to the dentist.