Spotlight brought on oral cancer

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Dr Peter Aldritt, chair of the ADA's oral health committee.
Dr Peter Aldritt, chair of the ADA’s oral health committee.

This week saw World Cancer Day acknowledged by medical professionals around the world. It also gave dental associations an opportunity to raise awareness of oral cancer, which is on the increase both here and overseas.

Oral Cancer is caused by a variety of lifestyle risks, many of which are a part of the lives of the majority of Australians. It is particularly alarming that cases of oral cancer are increasing in younger people, due to exposure to Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted.

Dr Peter Alldritt, Chair of the ADA’s Oral Health Committee, said: “Every day, at least three Australians are being diagnosed with oral cancer; an insidious, aggressive disease with a survival rate of only 50% over 5 years.  Oral cancer often goes undetected until it is at an advanced stage.”

According to statistics from Cancer Research UK, nine in every ten cases of mouth cancer are linked to lifestyle risk factors, with tobacco use, drinking alcohol to excess, poor diet and the human papillomavirus (HPV) all associated with increased risk.

Latest statistics show that there are 6,767 people diagnosed with mouth cancer every year in the UK – a figure which has increased by 50 per cent in the last decade alone.

Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, explained how World Cancer Day’s key campaign messages are particularly crucial when it comes to mouth cancer.

Dr Carter said: “Choosing healthy lifestyles and early detection are two of the messages World Cancer Day will be promoting on February 4. It is almost as though these messages were created with mouth cancer in mind, given the huge significance they can make to reducing the risk of the disease and catching it early.”

Oral Cancer can affect anyone from young adults right through to the elderly. It can occur on the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, gums, back of the throat or in salivary glands.

Dr Alldritt continued, “Smoking, alcohol, poor diet, excess sun exposure, poor oral hygiene and the Human Papilloma Virus all increase a person’s risk of developing oral cancer. However simple changes to one’s lifestyle will make a big difference to reducing your risk.”

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