30 November 20

Mouth Cancer Awareness

It is difficult to know the exact cause of mouth cancer. However, there are several factors that are likely to increase your risk. 90% of mouth cancers are linked to lifestyle. The good news is- we can all make small changes to help reduce the risk.  

If you struggle to limit those risks through lifestyle changes, then self-checks are key. Another important tip is to visit your dentist biannually to ensure that cancer is spotted early. Early detection leads to increased treatment success.

Of course, if you relate to most of these risks, it does not mean you will develop mouth cancer certainly. Nevertheless, it is important to be aware of the below.

Let's look at the list below for risks to mouth cancer.


Tobacco smoke increases your risk of developing mouth cancer. The increase is by up to ten times, compared with non-smokers. Around two in every three (more than 60%), mouth cancers are linked to smoking. Second-hand smoke may also affect the risk. So passive smokers may also be affected.


Alcohol also plays a part.  Alcohol is linked to just under a third (30%) of all mouth cancers. Importantly smoking and drinking together trebles a person's mouth cancer risk. UK guidelines recommend a maximum of 14 units of alcohol a week for both men and women.


There have been numerous links with mouth cancer to the human papillomavirus (HPV). Cervical cancer is caused by HPV and affects the skin that lines the moist areas of the body.  The spread of HPV is mainly through oral sex. HPV vaccines are available for both girls and boys. 

Initially, they were developed to fight cervical cancer, but it is likely that they will also help to reduce the rates of mouth cancer. 

Tobacco chewing

Smokeless tobacco is any tobacco product that is placed in the mouth or nose and not burned. Chewing and smokeless tobacco is extremely harmful and can significantly increase a person's risk of being diagnosed with mouth cancer.


Diet is so important and has been linked to cancer risk. A balanced healthy diet with lots of fruit and vegetables is key. Omega 3 is also key, and evidence also suggests that Omega 3, found in foods such as eggs and fish, can help lower your risk. Foods high in fibre such as nuts, seeds, whole-wheat pasta and brown rice, are also said to do the same.

Sunlight and sunbeds

As much as we love the sun, sadly it is a risk factor. Skin cancer can develop on the lips – as this area is often exposed to UV radiation. Use high SPF sunscreens and ensure to stay out of the sun during the hottest times of the day.

Cancer history

Those who have had mouth cancer are at greater risk of developing it again. There are also other cancers which can mean a person is more likely to get mouth cancer. These include:

  • Oesophagus cancer (of the food pipe)
  • Squamous cell skin cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Penile cancer
  • Anal cancer

Family history, genetics and the immune system

Genetics and family history can also play a part. Research also shows those undergoing treatment for HIV or AIDS, and those taking medication after organ transplants are slightly more at risk of mouth cancer. 

This is because some of the medication in these cases can weaken the immune system.

How to spot mouth cancer

It is essential to visit your dentist regularly; however, between visits, please follow the wonderful guide on https://www.dentalhealth.org/spotthesigns