The C word is enough to fill any of us with fear, and this is completely understandable, especially as cases of certain types of cancer continue to steadily rise despite improvements in medicine. What this comes down to is awareness, as these increases can be partly contributed to people being in the dark on the dangers of certain lifestyle activities and how these may lead to cancers such as oral cancer.
According to the Oral Health Foundation, 88% of UK citizens have heard of mouth cancer, but only 8% of this group is confident in their knowledge of the disease.[i]
There are up to 8,300 new cases of oral cancer in the UK every year, and this number is increasing rapidly.[ii] Unlike some other types of cancer, there are direct links between oral cancers and various lifestyle choices, meaning that people who know and avoid the most common risks (the “big three”) are far more likely to avoid developing the disease.
The first of the big three is perhaps the most obvious – smoking. There are reportedly 18.6 million smokers currently living in the UK and each of these individuals is putting themselves at a higher risk of mouth cancer.[iii] Cigarettes, cigars and other nicotine products are filled with toxic chemicals that can actively cause cancer, so by cutting out smoking your chances of developing the disease will be considerably decreased.
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol is another prime culprit. Research has suggested that alcohol, especially in conjunction with cigarettes, is particularly damaging as it may help the harmful chemicals in tobacco infiltrate the cells that line the mouth. Alcohol may also inhibit the natural repair function of these cells, allowing cancer to take over.[iv]
The third cause is one that is often overlooked – sexual contact. HPV (the human papillomavirus) is the most common sexually transmitted disease and affects millions of people around the world. Although many women will be protected from this virus due to a vaccine that has long been available to teenage girls, the male vaccine has only just been introduced in the UK, meaning there are millions of people who are still vulnerable to HPV.
So what can you do to protect yourself from mouth cancer? The best way is to know the risks, do the research and make the necessary changes. Try to quit smoking, increase your exercise and drink moderation on nights out or at home – it doesn’t take a huge change, but these steps can quickly improve your chances of avoiding oral cancer.
After all, you only live once, so it makes sense to do all you can to protect yourself from mouth cancer and live a healthy, happy lifestyle.
For further information please call EndoCare on 020 7224 0999
[iii] Oral Health Foundation. Millions putting themselves at risk of mouth cancer by being unaware of the ‘big three risks’. Link: https://www.dentalhealth.org/news/millions-putting-themselves-at-risk-of-mouth-cancer-by-being-unaware-of-the-big-three-risks [Last accessed March 2019].
[iv] American Cancer Society. Alcohol Use and Cancer. Link: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/diet-physical-activity/alcohol-use-and-cancer.html [Last accessed March 2019].