The Dentist Magazine.

Men twice as likely to develop oral cancer

Published: 29/11/2017

Men are more than twice as likely to develop oral cancer as women, according to new figures released by Cancer Research UK today.

The latest data shows that around 5,300 men are diagnosed with oral cancer every year in the UK compared to around 2,500 women.

The data also reveals that oral cancer is more often diagnosed in men at a younger age compared with other cancers. Oral cancer is the 11th most common male cancer overall, but among men aged 45 – 59 it is the fourth most common.

Oral cancer includes cancers of the mouth, tongue, lips, tonsils and the middle part of the throat (oropharynx).

To help tackle the rise in oral cancer, Cancer Research UK offers a free online educational resource for dental professionals and GPs to help them to spot the disease earlier, supported by the British Dental Association and accredited by the Royal College of General Practitioners.

The Oral Cancer Recognition Toolkit includes information on how to identify signs and symptoms, referral pathways and how to prevent the disease.

The resource has already been accessed by over 25,000 dental professionals and GPs across the UK and was shortlisted as a finalist at the Pharmaceutical Market Excellence Awards for the Excellence in Healthcare Professional Education and Support category.

Around nine out of 10 oral cancer cases in the UK are linked to preventable causes like smoking tobacco, alcohol and contracting human papillomavirus (HPV). The difference between cases in men and women may be due to men indulging more heavily in some of these activities. For example, there are higher smoking rates in men and an estimated 70 per cent of male oral and pharyngeal cancers in the UK are linked to tobacco smoking.

Cases of oral cancer have been going up in both men and women over the last decade, with rates rising from 10 cases per 100,000 people a year in the mid-2000s, to 13 cases per 100,000 today.

Dr Richard Roope, Cancer Research UK’s lead GP, said, “It’s a real concern that so many men are getting oral cancer and that it’s been on the rise in both men and women. But the vast majority of oral cancer cases are preventable, so the good news is that people can cut their risk by quitting smoking and cutting down on alcohol. It’s also vital that everyone knows what their mouth, tongue and gums usually feel like so they can spot anything out of the ordinary. Early diagnosis is absolutely key for the best results which is why we’re set on helping dentists and GPs catch oral cancer sooner.”

Nick Stolls, Harleston-based dentist from the British Dental Association, said, “Having referred patients with suspected oral cancers, I know that when it’s diagnosed at an earlier stage the chances are better for successful treatment. So it’s crucial that dentists and GPs know the signs to look out for and that patients bring anything suspicious to their attention as soon as possible. This is why it’s also important for patients to visit their dentist for regular check-ups so that anything out of the ordinary can be picked up and referred quickly.”

Access the dental professional’s toolkit here or the GPs’ toolkit here.