Oral cancer still on the rise

  • Date: 17 November 2020

ORAL cancer diagnoses in the UK have increased by 97 per cent since 2000, according to a report from the Oral Health Foundation.

Mouth cancer cases have risen for the 11th year in a row, with 8,722 new cases diagnosed last year (five per cent increase on previous year).

These findings are part of the charity’s new State of Mouth Cancer UK Report 2020/21 and have been released to coincide with November’s Mouth Cancer Action Month. 

Statistics from governing health bodies across the UK show that 67 per cent of mouth cancers are recorded in men and 78 per cent are in the over 55’s. Mouth cancer is most likely to occur in the tongue, contributing to 34 per cent of cases, but can also occur in the tonsils, the roof and floor of the mouth, lips and gums.

Early warning signs include mouth ulcers that do not heal within three weeks, red or white patches in the mouth, or unusual lumps and swellings. Persistent hoarseness could also be a symptom. Early detection boosts chances of survival from 50 to 90 per cent while also dramatically improving quality of life. Latest annual reports show mouth cancer claims 2,702 lives a year.

Mouth cancer referrals have fallen by 65 per cent since the beginning of lockdown, according to one of England's biggest NHS Trusts.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, said: "While many cancers are seeing a reduction in the number of people affected, mouth cancer is one of very few that is sadly going the other way. Established risk factors like smoking and excessive alcohol have been joined by emerging causes like the human papillomavirus (HPV). This has changed the profile of the disease quite considerably over recent years and mouth cancer can now affect anybody.

"One of the biggest challenges we face regarding mouth cancer is how little educational support it receives from government and public health bodies. As part of Mouth Cancer Action Month, we will be working with thousands of organisations to improve awareness of the disease so that more people are able to recognise the early warning signs."

This page was correct at the time of publication. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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