No better time than now to check for mouth cancer

mouth cancer awareness monthMouth Cancer Action Month takes place throughout November. Here’s why and how dental professionals need to show their support.

A report highlights a record number of new cases of mouth cancer in the UK. This year’s Mouth Cancer Action Month therefore comes at an especially poignant time.

Figures collected by the Oral Health Foundation show that 8,722 people in the UK were diagnosed with the disease last year, increasing by 97% since 2000.

Mouth cancer cases in the UK have soared for the 11th year in a row. Figures have more than doubled within the last generation.

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

Mouth cancer challenges

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation speaks on the matter. He believes with oral cancer cases continuing to rise, more must be done to raise awareness of the disease.

‘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,’ Dr Carter says.

‘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.

‘The disease can have a devastating and lasting effect on a person’s life. It can change how somebody speaks and it makes eating and drinking more difficult. It often leads to changes in a person’s physical appearance. Because of this, it also takes a heavy toll on a person’s mental health too.

‘One of the biggest challenges we face regarding oral cancer is how little educational support it receives from government and public health bodies. As part of Mouth Cancer Action Month, we are appealing for your help to improve awareness of the disease so that more people are able to recognise the early warning signs.’

Get involved

Statistics from governing health bodies across the UK show around two in three (67%) oral cancers are recorded in men while three in four (78%) are in the over 55s.

Mouth cancer is most likely to occur in the tongue, contributing to more than one in three (34%) cases. Oral cancer can also appear in the tonsils, the roof and floor of the mouth, lips and gums.

The early warning signs of the disease include mouth ulcers that do not heal within three weeks. Red or white patches in the mouth, or unusual lumps and swellings can appear. Persistent hoarseness could also be a symptom.

To help raise awareness of the disease, the charity has created a range of digital resources for dentists and their teams. These include displays in waiting rooms, emails to share and practice newsletters, as well as social media. All of these can be accessed from the Mouth Cancer Action Month digital toolkit. Download the toolkit here via

By registering your support at, the Oral Health Foundation will send you a free poster to display in your practice, and an enamel Blue Ribbon Badge.

To help support Mouth Cancer Action Month, download the digital toolkit for the campaign via

This article first appeared in Dentistry magazine. You can read the latest issue here.

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