Latest statistics obtained by mouth cancer campaigners the British Dental Health Foundation reveal that there were 7,698 new cases in 2011, a rise of 50 per cent since the turn of the millennium.
There were more than 6,000 new cases in England alone, while Scotland still has the most cases per 100,000 people. Almost double the number of men developed the disease compared to women.
Deaths from mouth cancer approached 2,500 in 2011, with no signs of cases or deaths slowing down.
Throughout November Mouth Cancer Action Month, organised by the British Dental Health Foundation and sponsored by Denplan and also supported by Dentists’ Provident and the Association of Dental Groups (ADG), aims to educate the public about a disease many experts believe will continue to rise over the next decade.
Lifestyle choices heavily influence the risk of developing mouth cancer. Tobacco use, drinking alcohol to excess, poor diet and the human papillomavirus (HPV), often transmitted via oral sex, increase the chances of mouth cancer. Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, expressed deep concern at the new figures.
Dr Carter said: 'The scale of increasing mouth cancer rates is very worrying. There is a clear gap in public knowledge about what causes mouth cancer that needs to be plugged. Smoking and drinking to excess increase your chances of getting mouth cancer by 30 times as much, yet so many social smokers often light up while having a drink.
'Of greater concern is the rise of the human papillomavirus. It is forecast to overtake smoking as the leading cause of the disease in the next ten years. Poor diet has been linked to half of cases in the UK. All of these factors make early diagnosis so important. If it is caught early, your chances of surviving mouth cancer are 90%. If it is caught late, which unfortunately many cases are, then you have a 50/50 chance of living.
'Given how important early detection is, 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.'