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UK oral cancer rates soar 68% over two decades

Published on 29/11/16 at 11:03am

As a move to raise awareness during Mouth Cancer Action Month, Cancer Research UK (CRUK) has released figures of an analysis which reveal that rates of oral cancer has risen by 68% in men and women of all ages over the last 20 years.

Annual cases in men under 50 have climbed from 340 to around 640, a growth of 67%, while cases of those aged under 50 have increased by 59% to around 4,400 cases a year.

Similarly, while oral cancer occurs more commonly in men, cases in women under 50 have increased by 71% to around 300 while figures for those over 50 show a rise of the same degree to around 2,200.

The most commonly-cited reason for these drastic increases, in 90% of cases, has been linked to lifestyle; particularly smoking, which was linked to 65% of cases. Alcohol consumption, diets with insufficient fruits and vegetables and Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infections are also given as possible factors.

"It's worrying that oral cancer has become more common. It's important to get to know your body and what's normal for you, to help spot the disease as early as possible,” explained Jessica Kirby, CRUK's senior health information manager. “An ulcer or sore in your mouth or tongue that won't go away, a lump on your lip or in your mouth, a red or red and white patch in your mouth or an unexplained lump in your neck are all things to look out for. Speak to your GP or dentist about any changes that are unusual or don't go away.

"Healthy lifestyles can help reduce the risk of developing the disease in the first place,” she continued. “Not smoking, drinking less alcohol and eating plenty of fruit and vegetables can all help to cut our risk of mouth cancer. HPV vaccination could help protect against oral HPV infections, and it can prevent a range of cancers associated with the HPV virus, so it's a good idea to get the vaccine if you are offered it."

Oral cancers include tumours which form in the tongue, gums and palate, throat and lips. In light of these alarming results, CRUK is pushing for protection of NHS Stop Smoking Services, which offer professional advice and treatments.

Matt Fellows

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