Oral Cancer Awareness Month - November 2014
During the next decade it is estimated that around 60,000 people in the UK will be diagnosed with the disease, and without early detection half will not survive.
To make early detection possible, it’s really important you visit your dentist regularly. They are best-placed to spot anything that may need a closer look. If you notice any of these things…
- Ulcers that do not heal within three weeks
- Red and white patches in the mouth
- Unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth
…Then make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.
Mouth Cancer Action Month aims to improve the awareness of the risk factors and signs and symptoms of the disease, as this is the only way of improving survival rate of patients. Tobacco use, drinking alcohol to excess, the human papillomavirus (HPV), transmitted via oral sex and poor diets are all risk factors for the disease. Through the involvement of healthcare professionals across the UK, it is our job to educate and inform as many people as we can in Manchester about these and what measures they can take to reduce their risk.
The campaign is about taking action. Don’t leave that ulcer unattended for more than three weeks. Don’t ignore that unusual lump or swelling or red and white patches in your mouth. Early detection could save your life. If in doubt have your mouth checked at your dentist. If you do not have a dentist please click here.
What are the risk factors?
One in five people in the UK smoke, and the habit is still considered the leading cause of mouth cancer. Many people are aware of the damage that smoking does to their lungs, but not to their mouths. Smoking helps to transforms saliva into a deadly cocktail that damages cells in the mouth and can turn them cancerous. Around two thirds of smokers want to quit, so use the campaign to do just that. If you would like to talk to someone about giving up, please view the Help me Quit page.
Drinking to excess can increase mouth cancer risks by four times. As alcohol aids the absorption of tobacco into the mouth, those who smoke and drink to excess are up to 30 times more likely to develop the disease. If you would like more information around safer drinking levels, please click here.
Human papillomavirus (HPV)
The Human papillomavirus, transmitted via oral sex, is increasingly being linked to mouth cancer. Younger people are particularly at risk. A recent study in the USA has connected over 20,000 mouth cancer cases to HPV in the last five years. Experts suggest it may rival tobacco and alcohol as a key risk factor within 10 years, although some research indicates that people with mouth cancer caused by HPV may have a greater chance of survival. People with multiple sexual partners are more at risk.
Around half of cases are thought to be linked to an unhealthy diet. It is recommended that people eat a healthy, balanced diet high in anti-oxidants including five portions of fruit and vegetables each day. Increasing evidence also suggests that Omega 3, found in foods such as eggs and fish can help lower risks, as can foods high in fibre such as nuts, seeds, whole-wheat pasta and brown rice.
Chewing or Smokeless tobacco
Smokeless tobacco is normally defined as 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. The types of smokeless tobacco products most used in the UK often contain a mix of ingredients including slaked lime, areca nut and spices, flavourings and sweeteners. The terminology for smokeless tobacco varies, but the main types used in the UK include:
- Gutka, Khaini, Pan Masala (betel quid), Shammah and Maras powder (these are sucked or chewed);
- Zarda, Qiwam, or Mawa (chewed);
- Lal dantmanjan, Gadakhu, Gul, Mishri, or Creamy Snuff (dental products which are used as toothpaste or rubbed on gums);
- Nass (can be used nasally, sucked or chewed).
Smokeless tobacco is used particularly by South Asian Communities, especially women. The incidence of mouth cancer is significantly greater among South Asian women. Other parts of South Asian communities are also more at risk from the effects of smokeless tobacco including: people of Bangladeshi origin; those in older age groups; and people from lower socioeconomic groups.
The oral health Improvement Team will be running events throughout November across the city of Manchester linked with doctor’s surgeries and within the community. Dates and venues will be available in September.