RUGBY, UK: Although oral cancer was previously thought to only affect people who lead unhealthy lifestyles, it is now evident that it may also affect those young people who have built healthy habits. According to the findings published in the State of Mouth Cancer UK Report 2022, cases of mouth cancer have now hit a record high in the UK. Given the concerning findings, Dr Nigel Carter, OBE, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, believes that there is an urgent need to raise awareness of the disease.
Mouth cancer accounts for around 2% of all cancers in the UK. According to data collected in the recent report published by the Oral Health Foundation, 8,864 people in the UK were diagnosed with the disease last year—an increase of 34% in the last decade. As the report shows, the figure has more than doubled (103%) within the last generation.
Additionally, the latest figures show that 3,034 people in the UK lost their lives to mouth cancer last year. This has risen by almost 20% in the last five years. According to the report, low survival rates could be explained by late diagnosis of the disease, since data shows that more than half (53%) of all mouth cancers are diagnosed at their most advanced stage.
Additionally, it was found that a growing number of younger people are being diagnosed with mouth cancer, even those who refrain from smoking and lead a healthy lifestyle.
“We know that mouth cancer doesn’t discriminate against anyone, you can be making appropriate lifestyle choices and still be at risk,” commented Dr Catherine Rutland, clinical director at Denplan, an insurance company in the UK. According to her, dental patients must regularly check for early signs of mouth cancer at home.
“While most cancers are on the decrease, cases of mouth cancer continue to rise at an alarming rate. Traditional causes like smoking and drinking alcohol to excess are quickly being caught up by emerging risk factors like the human papillomavirus,” Dr Carter noted.
The findings have been released to coincide with November’s Mouth Cancer Action Month, and the charity stated that it will be raising greater awareness of mouth cancer throughout the campaign. Although the latest research from the Oral Health Foundation suggests that awareness of mouth cancer is improving and 88% of British adults have now heard of mouth cancer, education about the disease is difficult to access. To illustrate this point, the majority of the population, or 80%, does not recall ever seeing any public health messages about mouth cancer, and only around 15% recall being exposed to information about the disease in the last year, the report shows.
According to the charity, there is also a great need to find a way to connect mouth cancer to oral health, since only half of patients (47%) are aware of the fact that a dentist checks for signs of mouth cancer during a dental appointment.
More information about mouth cancer can be found at mouthcancer.org.