According to figures released by Cancer Research UK, oral cancer is now the tenth most common cancer in men and the 15th most common in women.
The figures show that about 7,300 people were diagnosed with oral cancer in Britain in 2012 and twice as many men than women were diagnosed with the disease. This is due to the higher prevalence of smoking among men.
In 2002 there were just 4,500 cases of oral cancer, meaning that the disease’s incidence rate has risen by a third in a decade.
The disease — in which tumours develop on the surface of the tongue, mouth, lips or gums — kills about 2,300 people in Britain every year.
The researchers found that nine out of 10 oral cases are linked to lifestyle choices, predominantly smoking. The human papilloma virus (HPV) and excessive alcohol consumption have also been linked to the disease. Indeed the rise in mouth cancers may be partly down to an increase in HPV, which is spread by oral sex.
Dr Richard Roope, Cancer Research UK’s lead GP, said: ‘The combination of tobacco, drinking alcohol and HPV provides a toxic cocktail that has led to this rising tide of cancers, so it’s vital that people are aware of how to reduce their risk.’
Cancer Research UK is launching a new toolkit for dentists and GPs to help try and spot the disease earlier.
Professor Damien Walmsley, chief scientific advisor to the British Dental Association, said: ‘If oral cancer is spotted early survival rates can reach 90 per cent. Delay is costing lives, so it’s vital that frontline health professionals have the tools and the information to reduce the risk of the disease and get patients diagnosed as quickly as possible.’
Possible signs of mouth cancer include ulcers, a lump, or red and white patches on the inside of the mouth. It is recommended that you see a doctor if any of these symptoms do not heal after three weeks.
Regularly going to the dentist can be crucial in spotting these early symptoms.