We all think we know what to look out for when it comes to cancer. But many of us forget it can occur all over the body - including our mouths. Although it isn't the most common cancer, its prevalence is definitely on a steep rise. According to figures released today by Cancer Research UK, cases of mouth cancer have increased by 68% in the last 20 years for men and women of all ages. The charity says that nine out of ten cases are linked to unhealthy lifestyles. (1)
Although we know more about cancer now then ever before, not everybody understands the causes and symptoms - particularly when it comes to less common cancers. November is Mouth Cancer Action Month, a campaign led by the Oral Dental Health Foundation which is dedicated to raising awareness around the risk factors and symptoms.
Who is most at risk of mouth cancer?
Mouth cancers are more common among people over the age of 40 - particularly men - but can affect people of all ages. Most cases are linked to tobacco and alcohol, which damage the DNA in cells and increase the cancer risk.
But the disease can also stem from a poor diet while recent studies have linked it the human papillomavirus (HPV) - a major cause of cervical cancer.
Shockingly, many experts predict HPV, which is mostly transmitted through oral sex, will soon take over as the biggest cause of mouth cancer.
Christina Chatfield, a dental hygienist and clinical director of a dental practice in Brighton, says: 'I was shocked when I heard the stats about mouth cancer. More people die from oral cancer than testicular and cervical cancer combined but are very much more aware of these other cancers.
'The reason why more people die is primarily due to late detection. HPV is overtaking smoking and drinking as risk factors, which puts the majority of the population at risk - it is no longer an 'old person' disease. As a mother myself, I would like boys and girls to receive the same level of prevention.'
Read on to find out about how to cut your mouth cancer risks.