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JR Ewing dies of oral cancer

TV star Larry Hagman’s death from mouth cancer has prompted an oral health charity to remind the profession about the value of oral screening days

Hagman, best known for his role as JR Ewing in the hit series Dallas, died of tongue cancer on Friday, having been diagnosed with the disease in October last year.

With the help of healthcare professionals across the country, Mouth Cancer Action Month, taking place throughout November, aims to educate the public about a disease that has affected high profile names such as Michael Douglas, radio presenter Danny Baker and former England cricketer Geoffrey Boycott.

Tobacco use, drinking alcohol to excess, poor diet, and the human papilloma virus (HPV), often transmitted via oral sex, are all risk factors associated with mouth cancer. Signs and symptoms include ulcers which do not heal within three weeks, red and white patches in the mouth and unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth. Educating patients about these risk factors and symptoms, as well as holding a free oral screening day, could save a life.

With a third of all Brits unsure of whether they are at risk from the disease, the campaign is an ideal time for dentists, GPs, pharmacists and other healthcare bodies to discuss lifestyles with their patients.

Chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, hopes this latest high-profile case will help to spread the message and raise awareness about mouth cancer.

Dr Carter said: 'Larry’s passing is a reminder of how deadly mouth cancer can be. Latest figures show more than 6,000 cases have been diagnosed in the UK. Without early detection, half of those will die.

'Although Larry was 81, the demographic of those diagnosed with the disease is changing. Cases of young people developing the disease are on the rise, so it is really important patients leave the practice knowing the risks and are aware of what they should be looking for. Our campaign message is one that can be passed on. If in doubt, get checked out.'

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