In November, the charity campaign Mouth Cancer Action Month are raising awareness of mouth cancer to save lives through early detection and prevention. The amount of people being diagnosed with mouth cancer has increased over the last decade by around a third, highlighting the importance of early detection and prevention.

Mouth Cancer and Alcohol

Drinking alcohol regularly can increase your risk for all types of oral cancer; those who drink are 6 times more likely than non-drinkers to develop mouth cancer. One study found that if you stop drinking, this risk will reduce by 2% for each year you remain tee-total.[i] Avoiding alcohol altogether will reduce your risk of developing mouth cancer. If you do drink, you should try limiting your intake.

Mouth Cancer and Smoking

One of the best preventive measures you can take against mouth cancer is to give up smoking. Smokers are 6 times more likely to develop mouth cancer than non-smokers. Once you quit, even if you have been smoking for many years, you will greatly reduce your risk of developing mouth cancer as well as other smoking related illnesses.

Early Detection

Early detection can save lives, so if you notice any changes in your mouth you should talk to your doctor or dentist immediately. You should look out for:

  • Mouth ulcers that are present for more than three weeks.
  • Any unusual lumps or swellings
  • Red and white patches in your mouth.
  • Unexplained loose teeth or sockets that do not heal after extractions
  • Unexplained, persistent numbness or an odd feeling on the lip or tongue
  • Changes in speech, such as a lisp

Prevention

There are a number of ways you can prevent yourself from developing mouth cancer. As mentioned above, the best way to do this is to avoid smoking and alcohol. Other ways to prevent this disease include:

  • Practicing good oral hygiene
  • Regular visits to the dentist
  • Getting vaccinated for HPV
  • Protecting your lips from the sun using SPF lip balm

[i] Cancer Research UK website. Alcohol Facts and Evidence