November is Mouth Cancer Action Month and here in the first of a series of articles we look at the causes of mouth cancer.

Mouth cancer occurs when there is an anomaly in the normal cell lifecycle, causing cells to grow and reproduce uncontrollably, creating a cancerous tumour. To be classified as oral cancer, these tumours develop on the surface of the tongue, inside the mouth, on the lips or gums. Tumours can also occur in the salivary glands, tonsils or pharynx, but these are the least commonplace areas.

These cancers can spread to another part of the body, and if it does, this is known as metastatic oral cancer. Spreading can occur either directly, where the cancer spreads out of the mouth into nearby tissues like surrounding skin and into the back of the jaw, or via the lymphatic system which can take it anywhere throughout the body using the lymph glands.

Your dental practitioner is already checking your mouth for symptoms when you go for your regular appointments, but there are many things you can do to try and lower the chances of this type of cancer yourself. Causes of this form of cancer are amongst some of the more well known for contributing to the illness, and include:

  • Excessive drinking – Increasing the chance of contracting mouth cancer by up to four times, drinking to excess has been known to be an attributing factor in many cancers, including mouth cancer
  • Smoking – Tobacco has been linked to cancer for many years and is still the number one factor in human cancers. Smoking increases the chance exponentially, and the World Health Organisation states that up to half of the world’s current smokers will die of a tobacco related illness
  • Chewing or smokeless tobacco – Smokeless and chewing tobacco like betel quid, is not a ‘safe’ alternative to traditional cigarettes and is very common across Asia, Europe and the USA.
  • Age – As a person’s age increases, so does their chance of contracting mouth cancer. Once past 40, the potential increases, although disturbingly, there are many more younger people are being affected
  • Gender – Historically men are more than twice as likely to be affected by mouth cancer, but women have started to gain in numbers
  • Poor diet – Poor diet has many illnesses associated, but the same with most kinds of cancers, it can be a contributing factor to mouth cancer
  • HPV (the Human papillomavirus) –  The world’s most common sexually-transmitted virus is being linked to the growth of mouth cancer cases and is expected to become the leading cause of the disease in the near future. It’s the world’s most viral secret and during November, we want to put it under the spotlight.

These are the main areas that can be a cause or factor in being affected by mouth cancer, and if any of these categories are a focus in your life, then you need to consider changing something to decrease your chances of contracting this form of cancer.

Mouth cancer is not one you can hide, and in certain circumstances removal of a part of the face or jaw is the only option to trying to survive.

Talk to your dental practitioner, and be aware they are already keeping an eye on your mouth for any signs of cancer, what you can do to lower your chances, are to increase healthy eating and exercise, whilst cutting down on activities and habits that are known to increase the chances of mouth cancer.

Mouth Cancer Action Month is held in November every year and is supported by the Mouth Cancer Foundation and the British Dental Health Foundation.

For more information on the causes of mouth cancer, what your dentist looks for and how to decrease your chances, or to book a FREE check up please contact us here.