MOUTH cancer rates in the UK have risen by 68 per cent over the last 20 years, according to new analysis from Cancer Research UK.
The number of cases increased from eight to 13 per 100,000 people over the last two decades.
Oral cancer is more common in men and for those under 50, the rate has risen by 67 per cent in the last 20 years – increasing from around 340 cases to around 640 cases each year. For men aged 50 and over, rates have increased by 59 per cent climbing from around 2,100 cases to around 4,400 cases annually.
Similar rises have been seen among women, with oral cancer rates increasing by 71 per cent in the last 20 years for women aged 50 and over, jumping from 1,100 to around 2,200 cases.
Oral cancers include cancer of the lips, tongue, mouth (gums and palate), tonsils and the middle part of the throat (oropharynx). Around 90 per cent of cases are linked to lifestyle and other risk factors. Smoking is the biggest avoidable risk factor, linked to an estimated 65 per cent of cases. Other risk factors include alcohol, diets low in fruit and vegetables, and infections with the human papilloma virus (HPV).
Cancer Research UK and the British Dental Association have developed an oral cancer toolkit to help GPs, dentists, nurses and hygienists spot the disease and refer suspected cases sooner.
Russ Ladwa, Chair of the Health and Science Committee at the BDA said: "Oral cancer is on the rise, yet half of adults are not seeing a dentist. Early detection is key, and a check-up can mean the difference between a 90 per cent and 50 per cent survival rate.
"When survival rates for many cancers are improving it's high time Ministers delivered a strategy and effective messages so the public really understand the risks."