Studies show that mouth cancer is on the increase and that early detection dramatically improves the chances of recovery. This is why the Church House Dental team provides mouth cancer screening to all of our patients.
New cases of mouth cancer in the UK have now reached 8,302 a year and in 2018 2,722 Brits lost their life to mouth cancer. This has increased by 49% in the last decade and by 135% compared with 20 years ago. Around 56% of mouth cancers appear on the tongue and tonsils.
Mouth cancer screening at Church House Dental Practice
Mouth cancer screening is a short procedure that involves a thorough examination of your whole mouth. This will highlight any risk factors so we can treat or refer you as quickly as possible.
It is recommended that you come in for a screening on a yearly basis. If you have any sores, lumps or long-term ulcers in your mouth, no matter how small, it is very important that you come in to have them looked at.
We don’t know what causes most mouth cancers. However, there are several factors that are likely to increase our risk.
Around half of all mouth cancers are linked to lifestyle factors that might be seen as preventable.
If we do not stop or reduce the things that might put us at greater risk, it is important that we carry out self-checks at home and regularly visit the dentist.
Smoking tobacco increases our risk of developing mouth cancer by up to ten times, compared with never-smokers. This includes smoking cigarettes, pipes or cigars.
More than 60% of mouth cancers are linked to smoking. There is also evidence that second-hand smoke at home or in the workplace may increase a person’s risk of mouth cancer.
Drinking alcohol to excess increases our risk of mouth cancer. Alcohol is linked to just under a third (30%) of all mouth cancers.
Smoking and drinking together increases the risk of mouth cancer by up to 30 times.
UK guidelines recommend a maximum of 14 units of alcohol a week for both men and women.
Many recent reports have linked mouth cancer to the human papillomavirus (HPV).
HPV is the major cause of cervical cancer and affects the skin that lines the moist areas of the body. HPV can be spread through oral sex, and research suggests that it could soon rival smoking and drinking as one of the main causes of mouth cancer.
Practicing safe sex and limiting the number of partners we have may help reduce our chances of contracting HPV.
Chewing and smokeless tobacco
Smokeless tobacco is any tobacco product that is placed in the mouth or nose and not burned. Although some people believe this type of tobacco is safer than smoking, the reality is that it is much more dangerous.
Around a third of mouth cancers are thought to be linked to an unhealthy diet and a lack of vitamins and minerals. It is recommended that we eat a healthy, balanced diet including lots of fruit and vegetables each day.
Increasing evidence also suggests that Omega 3, found in foods such as eggs and fish, can help lower our risk. Foods high in fibre such as nuts, seeds, whole-wheat pasta and brown rice, are also said to do the same.
Sunlight and sunbeds
Too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a known cause of skin cancer. This can occur either from natural sunlight or sunbeds. Skin cancer can develop on the lips – as this area is often exposed to UV radiation.
Those who have had a mouth cancer are at greater risk of developing it again.
There are also other cancers which can mean a person is more likely to get mouth cancer. These include:
Family history, genetics and the immune system
Although we do not know why, there is a slight increase in risk of mouth cancer if we have a close relative diagnosed with the disease and can also be more likely for those who carry certain inherited genes. Links have been found for those with genetic conditions affecting the bone marrow, skin or fingernails.
Research also shows those undergoing treatment for HIV or AIDS, and those taking medication after organ transplants are slightly more at risk of mouth cancer. This is because some of the medication in these cases can weaken the immune system.