Major rise forecast for world mouth cancer cases

Lifestyle factors like drinking and smoking remain major risk factors for mouth cancer.

World-wide cases of mouth cancer are forecast to rise by nearly two thirds by 2030. The International Agency for Research on Cancer predicts that over 790,000 people will be diagnosed with mouth cancer by 2030—an increase of over 63 per cent compared to 2008.

Mortality rates for mouth cancer are predicted to be even higher with over 460,000 deaths forecast by 2030—more than two thirds higher than 2008 rates (67.6 per cent).

Many of the risks for mouth cancer are lifestyle related. Tobacco use is by far the biggest cause of mouth cancer. Alcohol abuse is also a major cause and drinking to excess can increase the risk of mouth cancer by up to four times.  People who smoke and drink are up to 30 times more likely to develop mouth cancer.

Smokeless or chewing tobacco like Gutka, Khaini, and Pan Masala also pose a major risk for mouth cancer, especially among South East Asian countries and communities. The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), usually transmitted through oral sex, is another risk factor for mouth cancer.

The World Health Organisation believes ‘modifying and avoiding’ risk factors could result in up to 30 per cent of cancers being avoided and chief executive of the International Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, believes greater worldwide knowledge on mouth cancer and associated risk factors could have a major influence on the lives of millions.

Dr Carter said: “Although cancer is not wholly preventable, mouth cancer is very closely related to lifestyle choices.  Making more people aware of the risks and symptoms for mouth cancer will undoubtedly save lives.

“Forecasts for the incidence and mortality of mouth cancer are very grim. We hope more countries will develop their own mouth cancer action campaigns to raise awareness and invite anyone who wishes to do so to contact the Foundation for advice.

“Something that everyone can do is to routinely check for warning signs.  These include ulcers which do not heal within three weeks, red and white patches in the mouth, and unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth.”



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