Mouth Cancer Action Month launches today, yet new survey data suggests many are still desperately unaware of the risk factors for the disease.
The survey asked more than 2,000 people if they could name the four main risk factors for mouth cancer, with no-one able to identify the quartet of smoking, drinking alcohol to excess, poor diet and, despite Michael Douglas’ high profile case, the human papillomavirus (HPV), often transmitted via oral sex.
Worryingly, a large number of people mistakenly thought bad oral health was responsible for the disease while other answers included stress, smog, anaemia, snoring and even high blood pressure.
Latest figures show that mouth cancer cases exceeded 7,500 in 2011, and cases are expected to rise further. Mouth Cancer Action Month (1-30 November), organised by the British Dental Health Foundation and sponsored by Denplan and supported by Dentists’ Provident and the Association of Dental Groups (ADG), is dedicated to raising awareness of the disease, including the risk factors and the signs and symptoms.
Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, hopes the campaign will form a springboard for raising awareness of mouth cancer.
Dr Carter said: “For no-one to be able to correctly identify what the four causes of the disease are is both surprising and worrying. The campaign continues to play a crucial role in educating the public about the disease, and it’s clear from the survey we still have some way to go.
“Tobacco use and drinking alcohol to excess can increase the risk of developing mouth cancer by up to 30 times. Experts forecast the human papillomavirus (HPV) will overtake smoking as the principle cause of the disease within the next ten years, and almost half of cases in the UK have been linked to poor diet.
“The campaign is a great opportunity for the public to learn about the risks and what to look out for. Ulcers that do not heal within three weeks, red and white patches and unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth should not be ignored. Our advice is clear – if in doubt, get checked out.”
Henry Clover, Deputy Chief Dental Officer at Denplan, said: “Catching mouth cancer early is crucial to transforming survival rates. If caught early, the chances of surviving more than five years is up to 90 per cent. If it’s too late that falls to 50 per cent. Dentists across the country are opening their practice doors and holding free screening events, so we urge as many people as possible to get checked out. It could save your life.”
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