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Date: 30 October 2003 Release: Immediate Research carried out by the British Dental Health Foundation has found that over half the adult population were unaware if they had been screened for mouth cancer. Another third were sure they had not been checked. A mouth cancer examination is painless and can save lives. Last year mouth cancer killed 1,700 people – one every five hours. Over 4,300 new cases were diagnosed – a 17 percent increase in four years. People over forty are recognised as being more at risk of developing the disease. However the survey showed that even amongst people aged over 45 years, almost half said they had not had an examination. The charity is concerned that not enough people are aware of the disease, even amongst high-risk groups. In a large-scale study in Scotland, only six percent of the population demonstrated an unprompted awareness about mouth cancer. North of the border, the incidence of the disease is double the UK national average. Patients should ask their dentist about mouth cancer screening, to check if it is being carried out. It is especially important for people who use tobacco, drink alcohol, or are over forty, as these are high-risk groups. During a mouth cancer examination the dentist examines the soft tissue in the mouth, including gums, cheeks and tongue. If the dentist finds something unusual or abnormal they will refer you to a consultant at the local hospital, who will carry out a thorough examination of your mouth and throat. Dr Nigel Carter, Chief Executive of the Foundation said, “There are an increasing number of young people who are developing mouth cancer so it is important that everybody has a check-up at least once a year. You should speak to your dentist if you are not sure if you are being examined for mouth cancer, if you feel you may be at high risk, or when you notice any unusual changes in your mouth.� The public can get free information from the Foundation’s Dental Helpline. The team of qualified advisors can be contacted on 0845 063 1188 from Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm, or by email from the website A free information leaflet Tell Me About Mouth Cancer is available on request. Information about mouth cancer is available on the Foundation’s website at
Date: 3 November 2003 Release: Immediate One person dies every five hours from mouth cancer in the UK, according to the British Dental Health Foundation. And according to the charity, most people aren’t aware of how they might be putting themselves at risk of contracting a disease which kills 1,700 people a year. Over the past four years cases of mouth cancer have risen by 17% – a faster increase than any of the major cancers. More than 4,300 cases are diagnosed each year. Yet a major survey in Scotland found only six percent of the population demonstrated an unprompted awareness of the disease. The main cause of mouth cancer is smoking or using tobacco. People who chew tobacco or use betel nut are also a high-risk group. Alcohol is another major cause of mouth cancer and if you smoke and drink your risk is increased. People who consume excessive amounts of alcohol (more than 21 units a week for women and 28 units for men), and who smoke more than one pack of cigarettes per day, can be up to a staggering 24 times more likely to develop mouth cancer than those who don’t smoke or drink. Men over forty are more likely to develop the condition. However, the trends are changing and an increasing number of younger men and women are suffering from mouth cancer. A quarter of all cases are not linked to the major risk factors. The Foundation, the UK’s leading independent oral health charity, says that everyone should visit their dentist at least once a year for a checkup. This mouth cancer screening involves a simple and painless check of the soft tissues in the mouth including gums, tongue and cheeks, which lasts only a few minutes. With around 200 deaths each year in Scotland, people’s risk of catching the disease north of the border is double that of the UK as a whole. Dr Nigel Carter, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, said “Tobacco use is the major cause of mouth cancer, but anyone can get it. “If you have a mouth ulcer that won’t clear up within three weeks, or you notice a red or white patch in your mouth or on your tongue, go to your dentist. Dentists and dental hygienists are specially trained to do examinations for signs of mouth cancer. The examination is painless and only takes a few minutes, but it could save your life.� Free advice is available from the Foundation’s Dental Helpline team. They can be contacted on 0845 063 1188 from Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm or online at A free information leaflet Tell Me About Mouth Cancer is available on request. More information about mouth cancer is available at