Our mouth helps us to breathe, talk, eat and swallow. We rely on it for so many different things, but sadly each year over 8,800 people are diagnosed with some form of mouth cancer.
Although mouth cancer can affect anyone, there are several key lifestyle factors that can increase your likelihood of developing the disease.
Smoking and Alcohol
Smoking tobacco and consuming excessive quantities of alcohol are the two main risk factors for mouth cancer. Current guidelines suggest that men and women should drink no more than 14 units.
The chemicals present in cigarettes transform saliva, allowing it to damage cells in the mouth and potentially turn them cancerous.
To reduce your risk be sure to keep your alcohol consumption within the weekly guidelines and consider quitting smoking. Your dentist will be able to offer help and support in quitting and will also be able to direct you to other services which can help you quit.
Many recent reports have linked mouth cancer to the human papillomavirus (HPV).
HPV is the major cause of cervical cancer and affects the skin that lines the moist areas of the body. HPV can be spread through oral sex, and research suggests that it could soon rival smoking and drinking as one of the main causes of mouth cancer.
Practicing safe sex and limiting the number of partners you have may help reduce your chances of contracting HPV. There are now HPV vaccines for both girls and boys. They were developed to fight cervical cancer, but it is likely that they will also help to reduce the rates of mouth cancer. These vaccines are given at age 12 to 13 before sexual activity starts.
Chewing and smokeless tobacco
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. The types of smokeless tobacco products most used contain a mix of ingredients including slaked lime, areca nut and spices, flavourings and sweeteners.
A diet lacking in key vitamins and minerals can increase your risk of developing mouth cancer.
A varied diet, high in fresh fruit and vegetables helps to reduce the risk of developing all forms of cancer, including mouth cancer. Foods high in antioxidant vitamins help to prevent damage to body cells.
Sunlight and Sunbeds
Skin cancers are relatively common on the face and neck as these are areas most often exposed to ultra violet light. Both the sun and tanning beds give off ultra violet rays. These rays can cause skin cancers in unprotected skin. Melanoma the most serious type of skin cancer can occur on the lips.
To reduce your risk be sure to use a high factor sun cream on your face and neck to help reduce expose to ultraviolet rays. If you still want that sun kissed look there are many self-tanning products available which pose no risk to your health.
Top tips to ensure that your mouth stays healthy
- Ensure you have a full a varied diet, rich in vitamins. Plenty of fruit and vegetables can help the body protect itself from most cancers.
- Cut down on the amount you smoke and drink
- When brushing your teeth look out for any red or white patches or ulcers that do not clear up within three weeks
- Visit your dentist for regular appointments so that any problems can be identified early and treated quickly.
- When out in the sun be sure to use a high factor sun cream on your face and neck and a barrier cream on your lips.
The team at KentEndo will be able to advice you if they notice any changes in your mouth that need further investigation and you can be safe in the knowledge that you will always receive the highest possible level of care, in a relaxed and calm environment. If you would like more information or have any questions do not hesitate to ring the surgery on 01622 225555