The number of young people being diagnosed with mouth, throat and food pipe cancer has doubled and researchers believe this is due to excessive smoking, drinking and an unhealthy diet among the young. These cancers, which are known as Upper aero–digestive tract cancers, are responsible for 10,000 deaths in the UK alone.
Researchers at Aberdeen University conducted a five–year study, which examined 350 patients under the age of 50 with UADT cancers and compared the results to 400 people who did not have the disease. It was discovered that nine in 10 of the cancers had been caused by smoking, drinking and a lack of fruit and vegetables in the diet.
Professor Macfarlane, who led the study, said: “Our study aimed to determine whether smoking, alcohol consumption and low fruit and vegetable intake remained the most significant risk factors for UADT cancers in this age group, or whether other “novel” factors including genetics and infection could be relatively more important.
“The results of our study further emphasise that the message we need to be communicating to the public remains the same – that smoking, drinking and diet are the major triggers of these diseases at all ages”.
Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, said: “Latest figures show that over 5,300 new cases a year are diagnosed in the UK, and one person dies every five hours from the disease. Action really must be taken to raise awareness and change these figures.
“With Mouth Cancer Action Month taking place this November, now is the perfect time for people to rethink their lifestyle choices, and make sure they are doing what they can to protect their health.”
Tobacco is considered to be the leading cause of mouth cancer, and those who smoke and drink alcohol to excess are up to 30 times more likely to develop the condition. Alcohol aids the absorption of tobacco in the mouth, which transforms saliva into a deadly cocktail that damages cells and can turn them cancerous.
Around a third of cases are thought to be linked to an unhealthy diet. Increasing evidence suggests that Omega 3, found in fish and eggs, can help to lower risks. As can foods high in fibre such as nuts, seeds, whole–wheat pasta and brown rice.
Another key risk factor for mouth cancer is the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). US studies have linked more than 20,000 cancer cases to the virus in the last five years. Transmitted via oral sex, people with multiple sexual partners are more at risk. Oral health experts suggest HPV may rival tobacco and alcohol as the most common risk factor.
Mouth Cancer Action Month is an annual campaign taking place every November. The campaign is organised by the Foundation and aims to raise awareness of mouth cancer, its early symptoms and the common risk factors.
The National Dental Helpline is a confidential and independent service. Fully qualified dental experts are available to offer information and advice on all oral health–care topics. Contact the Helpline on 0845 063 1188, between 9am and 5pm; alternatively, email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further information please contact the Foundation’s Press Office on email@example.com or 01788 539 792.
Mouth cancer is twice more common in men than in women, though an increasing number of women are being diagnosed with the disease. Previously, the disease has been five times more common in men than women.
Age is another factor, with people over the age of 40 more likely to be diagnosed, though more young people are now being affected than previously.
The charity strongly advises people of all ages to check their mouths and have regular dental appointments.
Initial signs of the disease include a non–healing mouth ulcer, a red or white patch in the mouth, or unusual lumps or swelling in the mouth.
The British Dental Health Foundation is the UK’s leading oral health charity, with a 40–year track record of providing public information and influencing government policy. It maintains a free consumer advice service, an impartial and objective product accreditation scheme, publishes and distributes a wide range of literature for the profession and consumers, and runs National Smile Month each May, to promote greater awareness of the benefits of better oral health and Mouth Cancer Action Month annually in November.
The Dental Helpline, which offers free impartial advice to consumers, can be contacted on 0845 063 1188 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. Alternatively, they can be contacted by email on firstname.lastname@example.org
A series of ‘Tell Me About…’ leaflets covering topics such as caring for my teeth, finding a dentist and diet are also available.
The Foundation’s website can be found at www.dentalhealth.org
The Foundation also hosts two other websites: one for Mouth Cancer Action Month (www.mouthcancer.org) and other for National Smile Month (www.smilemonth.org).
Please visit the Foundation’s Twitter accounts: dentalhealthorg, mouthcancerorg and smilemonth and add our Facebook fan–page: ‘British Dental Health Foundation’.