Some non-smokers could be twice as likely to develop oral cancer than smokers

oral cancerNon-smokers with precancerous lesions are twice as likely to develop oral cancer than smokers, new research has shown.

In some cases the research found that non-smokers with lesions were up to 38 times more likely to develop cancer than smokers.

Authors of the study speculated that genetic susceptibility or mutations were the probable cause of precancerous lesions.

‘Smoking may be the leading cause of oral cancer, linked to around three in every four cases, but non-smokers need to be just as vigilant in spotting and acting on any changes to the mouth,’ Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, said.

‘Catching oral cancer early can dramatically increase your chances of beating the disease so it is vitally important to check regularly for the early warning.

‘Oral cancer is beatable, but you must act quickly.

‘The key to this is being alert to the early warning signs and seeking immediate help when you notice anything suspicious.’

Oral cancer rates

Oral cancer is the 11th most common cancer with incidence rates expected to rise by 33% in the UK by 2035.

More than 7,500 people are diagnosed with oral cancer every year in the UK, with men twice as likely to develop oral cancer as women.

‘If you see a lesion in a smoker, be worried,’ lead author of the study and a clinical research coordinator with British Columbia Cancer, Leigha Rock, said.

‘If you see a lesion in a non-smoker, be very worried.

‘Don’t assume it can’t be cancer because they’re a non-smoker; our research indicates non-smokers may be at higher risk.’

Read more on oral cancer:


Get the most out of your membership by subscribing to Dentistry CPD
  • Access 600+ hours of verified CPD courses
  • Includes all GDC recommended topics
  • Powerful CPD tracking tools included
Register for webinar
Add to calendar