Know Your Risks of Developing Mouth Cancer

Published on 01/12/2015

Our mouth helps us to breathe, talk, eat and swallow. Mouth cancer includes any cancer in the oral cavity including the lips, the front two thirds of the tongue, the upper and lower gums, the inside lining of the cheek and lips, the floor of the mouth, the roof of the mouth and the area behind the wisdom teeth.

Sadly each year more than 1,800 lose their life to mouth cancer in the UK. Overall 2 out of every 100 cancers diagnosed are mouth or throat cancers. Anyone can be affected by mouth cancer. However they are more prevalent in people over 50 with 7 out of 8 cases in people over 50. Men are also twice as likely to be affected.

On top of these more general factors there are certain specific factor which can increase the risk of developing mouth cancer.

Risk Factors

Smoking and Alcohol

Smoking tobacco and consuming large quantities of alcohol are the two main risk factors for 

mouth cancer. A study in 2011 found that half of all mouth cancers could be linked to smoking and a recent study by Cancer Research UK found that a third of mouth cancers are caused by excessive alcohol consumption. Current guidelines suggest that men should drink no more than 21 units of alcohol per week and women should drink no more than 14 units.

Chewing tobacco and betel quid is not a safe alternative to cigarettes and has in recent years seen a growth in popularity in the UK as more people migrate from Asia and Europe.

The harmful substances in tobacco and betel quid can cause cancer when in contact with your gums and tongue for long periods. Tobacco and alcohol contain nitrosamines and other chemicals which have been linked to cancer.

To reduce your risk be sure to keep your alcohol consumption within the weekly guidelines and consider quitting smoking. Your dentist will be able to offer help and support in quitting and will also be able to direct you to other services which can help you quit.


A poor diet can increase your risk of developing mouth cancer. This can be due to a lack of vitamins and minerals.

A diet high in fresh fruit and vegetables seems to reduce the risk of developing mouth cancer. Foods high in antioxidant vitamins help to prevent damage to body cells.

Sunlight and Sunbeds

Skin cancers are relatively common on the face and neck as these are areas most often exposed to ultra violet light. Both the sun and tanning beds give off ultra violet rays. These rays can cause skin cancers in unprotected skin. Melanoma the most serious type of skin cancer can occur on the lips.

To reduce your risk be sure to use a high factor sun cream on your face and neck to help reduce expose to ultraviolet rays. If you still want that sun kissed look there are many self-tanning products available which pose no risk to your health.

Mouth Conditions

Some changes can occur in the cells in the lining of the mouth and they can cause red or white patches to appear. In some people over time these changes may develop into cancer. At your dental appointments your dentist will be able to notice any changes and will then refer you to have them analysed further.

Top tips to ensure that your mouth stays healthy

  • Visit your dentist for regular appointments so that any problems can be identified early and treated quickly.
  • When brushing your teeth look out for any red or white patches or ulcers that do not clear up within three weeks
  • When out in the sun be sure to use a high factor sun cream on your face and neck and a barrier cream on your lips.
  • Ensure you have a full a varied diet, rich in vitamins. Plenty of fruit and vegetables can help the body protect itself from most cancers.
  • Cut down on the amount you smoke and drink

If you are worried about any of the risk factors or have noticed any changes in your mouth or gums call Leigh Dental Centre on 01702 472929 and book a consultation appointment today.

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