In England, mouth cancer has more than doubled within the last generation and smoking is linked to nearly two thirds of cases (60%).
Smoking increases a person’s chance of developing mouth cancer by more than 90%. However, those that are able quit see their level of risk cut almost immediately.
The charity is currently raising awareness of the disease as part of November’s Mouth Cancer Action Month and believes going smoke-free in the next decade would save thousands of lives from mouth cancer.
Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, believes that tackling smoking is the best way forward to reducing rates of mouth cancer.
Dr Carter says: “Despite the number of smokers continuing to fall, it remains the leading cause of mouth cancer. Our focus must be on providing smokers with the support and information they need in order to kick tobacco for good. It’s never too late to quit and by making this positive step, the health of your mouth and body will see both instant and long-term benefits.
“It is important that government makes their smoke-free target by 2030 a reality. To do this, more funding must be placed into smoking cessation services and campaigns which help more smokers to quit.”
New research by the Oral Health Foundation has found the people are supportive of a smoke-free England, with nearly nine-in-ten (88%) backing a range of policies that help to reduce smoking. More than half the population (51%) believe in regulation to stop smoking in the family home.
Second-hand smoke in the home has been linked to a host of health issues including meningitis and cancer, and respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of second-hand smoke because they breathe more rapidly and have less developed airways, lungs and immune systems.
“The creation of smoke-free environments from the 2007 smoking ban had a tremendously positive health impact, not only because it reduced exposure of non-smokers to second-hand smoke, but it also created an environment that stimulated people to quit,” added Dr Carter.
“Since then however, the culture of smoking and health policy has very much changed.
“I believe the UK is now in a place where we can support people to be smoke-free, without enforcing more regulation. Again, this needs government to give smoking cessation services and local authorities the resources they need in order to help those in their local areas.”
Last year, 8337 people in England were diagnosed with mouth cancer.
Alongside smoking cigarettes, pipes and cigars, there are three other main causes of mouth cancer. These are smokeless tobacco, ethnic tobacco such as paan and gutkha drinking alcohol to excess and the Human Papillomavirus (HPV).
Dr Catherine Rutland, Clinical Director at Simplyhealth, believes by being more aware of the things associated with mouth cancer, you are in the best possible place to lower your risk.
Dr Rutland says: “Most mouth cancers are linked to a series of lifestyle choices. This means that cutting your risk can be as simple as making a few small changes. Quitting tobacco or reducing how much you drink can cut your mouth cancer risk significantly.
“It’s important to know that if you do a few, or many, of the things associated with the disease, it does not mean that you will get mouth cancer. It just means your level of risk increases. By knowing this, you can be extra vigilant to the changes in your mouth and seek help from a health professional if you spot anything out of the ordinary.”
Mouth cancer can appear in the cheeks, gums, lips, tongue and tonsils. It can also occur on the roof and floor of the mouth, as well as the head and neck.
Non-healing mouth ulcers, red or white patches in the mouth, along with any lumps or swelling in the mouth, neck and head, can be some of the early warning signs.
Dr Carter adds: “During Mouth Cancer Action Month, we are asking everybody to be mouthaware. Know the risk factors associated with mouth cancer and know how to spot the disease early. Most importantly, if you see any of the early warning signs, don’t delay. If in doubt, get checked out by a dentist or doctor.”