Cases of mouth cancer have increased by 135% over the last generation and for those who smoke and drink too much alcohol, the likelihood of developing the disease increases by 30 times. One-in-two smokers (50%) do not realize tobacco is linked to mouth cancer. Just under half (48%) of those that exceed the government’s weekly alcohol intake are unaware that drinking to excess increases the risk of mouth cancer. In the UK, a leading health charity is urging Brits to be more aware of how their lifestyle choices can increase their risk of mouth cancer. The Oral Health Foundation is calling for the UK to be more Mouthaware, following new research which shows a systematic misunderstanding of mouth cancer and what causes it. According to the State of Mouth Cancer UK Report, two in three (68%) British adults do not consider themselves to be at any risk of developing mouth cancer, despite many admitting to making lifestyle choices that contribute to the disease. Like with any disease, altering lifestyle choices and making healthier decisions for your body, can give you a better chance of avoiding this disease.
Mouth cancer refers to cancer that develops in any of the parts that make up the mouth. Cancer that occurs on the inside of the mouth is sometimes called oral cancer or oral cavity cancer. Oral cancer is divided into two categories – those occurring in the oral cavity (your lips, inside of your lips and cheeks, teeth, gums, the front two-thirds of your tongue and the floor and roof of your mouth) and those occurring in the oropharnyx (middle region of the throat, including the tonsils and base of the tongue).
According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, 48,330 Americans were expected to receive diagnosis of oral or pharyngeal cancer in 2016, and about 9,570 deaths were predicted. Most mouth cancer mostly happens after the age of 40, and the risk is more than twice as high in men as it is in women. Mouth cancer occurs when cells on your lips or in your mouth develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. These mutations allow cancer cells to continue growing and dividing when healthy cells would die. The accumulating abnormal mouth cancer can form a tumor. With time they may spread inside the mouth and on to other areas of the head and neck or other parts of the body.
The oral cavity includes your lips, cheek lining, gums, front part of your tongue, floor of the mouth beneath the tongue and the hard palate that makes up the roof of your mouth. The throat starts at the soft part of the roof of your mouth and continues back into your throat. It includes the back section of your tongue, as well as the base where the tongue attaches to the floor of your mouth.
Smokers are three times more likely than nonsmokers to develop mouth cancer, and people who smoke and drink alcohol have up to 30 times higher risk than those who do not smoke and drink. Other factors that can increase your risk of mouth cancer include:
It’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer and to consult your dentist, if they do not disappear after two weeks. The signs and symptoms of mouth cancer include:
Treatment depends on the location and stage of the cancer, and the patient’s general health and personal preferences.
There’s no proven way to prevent mouth cancer, but you can reduce your risk of mouth cancer by doing the following: