The claim comes as data from the NHS in Wales shows smoking, alcohol abuse and poor diet are rife throughout the country, all of which are contributing risk factors for mouth cancer.
Almost one in four adults (24 per cent) smoke, 45 per cent admitted to drinking alcohol above the recommended guidelines while 57 per cent were considered overweight or obese1.
When compared to figures from the rest of the UK, the Welsh come under further scrutiny. Their tobacco usage, still considered to be the main risk factor for mouth cancer, is second only to Scotland’s (25 per cent)2, while on average only 33 per cent of adults in England admitted to drinking more than the recommended amount3.
Tobacco use, drinking alcohol to excess, poor diet and some sexually transmitted infections (Human Papilloma Virus or HPV) are all known risk factors for mouth cancer which is likely to affect 60,000 people in the UK over the next decade.
With incidence rates in Wales the second highest in the UK4, organisers of Mouth Cancer Action Month the British Dental Health Foundation hope that during the month-long campaign it will encourage people to consider what they can do to lower the risk.
Catching the disease early plays a key role in transforming mouth cancer survival rates. With one in two Welsh people not visiting the dentist5, Chief Executive of the Foundation Dr Nigel Carter issued a stark warning.
Dr Carter said: “The notion that the Welsh aren’t visiting their dentist for routine check-ups that will increase their chances of early detection needs to be addressed. Early detection can change five year survival rates from 50 per cent to up to 90 per cent.
“It is also concerning, given the lack of regular visits to the dentist, that such lifestyle choices are being made which will put their overall health at risk. The Foundation estimates, based on current rates, incidence of mouth cancer will double within a generation.
“It is really important that everyone knows the warning signs. They include: ulcers which do not heal within three weeks; red and white patches in the mouth; and unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth. During Mouth Cancer Action Month our message to everyone is ‘If in doubt, get checked out’.”
5. Study carried out by Ivor Chestnutt at Cardiff University Dental School. Presented at International Association of Dental Research (IADR) Annual Meeting in San Diego Wednesday, March 16, 2011 entitled “Demographics of Patients Attending State-Funded Dental Care In Wales”.