Mouth cancer cases include cancer of the lip, oral cavity, pharynx and occasionally larynx. Historically, mouth cancer was relatively rare in the UK, but in recent years, new cases of mouth cancer in the UK have started to rise. According to the report by the UK Oral Health Foundation, cases have risen by 34% in the last ten years and by 103% in the last 20 years. November is celebrated as Mouth Cancer Action Month in the UK to recognise the seriousness of this condition and show support for patients affected by this cancer. As mouth cancer cases are unlikely to decline soon, there should be more forceful messaging throughout the year to create awareness.
GlobalData epidemiologists forecast that the diagnosed incident cases of lip, oral cavity, pharynx and larynx cancer in the UK will grow at an annual growth rate (AGR) of 1.20%, from 11,000 cases this year to 12,000 cases in 2030. GlobalData epidemiologists expect the cases to rise slowly if there is greater awareness and implementation of preventive measures. This cancer is universal and is prevalent in all countries, rich and poor. Worldwide, around 650,000 cases of mouth cancer are diagnosed each year, but there is wide variation and it is more common in older men and in the low socio-economic group of the population. Approximately 80% of cases are in patients aged 55 years and older. Most mouth cancers are related to the consumption of tobacco and alcohol products, and the risk also increases for men and women who are susceptible to human papillomavirus (HPV).
Thanks to advancements in the field of medicine, mouth cancer can be treated successfully if diagnosed early. Early diagnosis also helps prevent the aggressive surgery required for treatment, which can be traumatic and cause disfigurement of the face. In recent years, there has been a lot of research into diagnostics and treatment, which, combined, have improved the survival rate in developed countries. Early diagnosis is key and the role of the dentist in identifying the early stages of cancer is vital. Currently, dental appointments are not easily available in the UK, which hampers early diagnosis. Improving dental access and creating awareness in the population is crucial to improve survival of this cancer.
As Mouth Cancer Action Month is celebrated, the mental and physical impact of this cancer on patients, their families and wider society should not be forgotten. It is imperative to continue public health awareness programmes and improve access to healthcare, especially dental care, while supporting patients suffering from this disease.