Mouth Cancer: The Risks

Mouth cancer is the 15th most common cancer in the UK and affects both sexes, although statistics show that almost twice as many men as women have the disease. 

The latest available statistics (2009) show that in that year 6,236 people were diagnosed with oral cancer. 

In the UK, oral cancer rates have increased by more than a quarter in the last decade. In 2010 1,985 people died from the disease. 

Risk factors include tobacco, alcohol, diet and nutrition, sunlight, human papillomavirus and immuno-suppression and other factors. 

In many cases the disease can be prevented because risk is very much linked to lifestyle - 93 per cent of incidences in men and 85 per cent in women are associated with lifestyle activities such as smoking, alcohol consumption and diet and nutrition. 

LISTEN HERE: 2nd year student Alja Jhubor

Year 2 dental students from Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry are running a series of events with young people on the Prince's Trust Team project to help raise awareness of the risks and ways to avoid contracting the disease. 

This includes looking at the dangers of smoking, alcohol and poor diet and promoting and encouraging oral hygiene. 

The sessions will also include a talk from an oral cancer survivor. LISTEN HERE Vera Palmer

Symptoms May Include: 

  • Red, or red and white, patches on the lining of the mouth or tongue 
  • One or more mouth ulcers that do not heal after three weeks 
  • A swelling in the mouth that lasts for more than three weeks 
  • Pain when swallowing 
  • A tooth or teeth that become loose for no apparent reason 
  • A persistent pain in the neck A hoarse voice Unexplained weight loss 
  • Unusual changes in sense of taste Earache Swollen lymph glands in the neck 

It is hoped that by raising awareness at a young age (16 to 25-year-olds) the risks of developing oral cancer later in life will be greatly reduced. 

The activity is part of the special study unit element of the dentistry course at Plymouth University, which sees students working closely with groups including children, adolescents, the elderly, substance abusers and prisoners. 

The aim is to raise awareness of oral health issues and provide the advice and tools necessary for individuals to improve their oral health. 

It also gives dental students vital experience of working with a wide range of people.