Mouth Cancer – what is it and why does it matter?


Next month, British Charity the Oral Health Foundation will once again be running their annual Mouth Cancer Action Month. Although the annual campaign officially runs throughout November, the organisation is keen to get the message out to as many people as possible and remind people that mouth cancer is something we should be aware of all year round.

What is mouth cancer?

The definition of mouth cancer is any form of cancer that affects the mouth. This may include the lips, tongue, cheeks and throat. Mouth cancer can appear in different forms and can affect any or all parts of the mouth. It is a dangerous disease that can and does cost lives.

What causes mouth cancer?

Tobacco and alcohol are by far the most significant factors in mouth cancer. Cigarette, cigar and pipe smoking are the main forms of tobacco use in many parts of the world and can all dramatically increase the likelihood of developing the disease. As well as smoking, consumption of alcohol also increases the risk of mouth cancer. The risk is even greater for those who use tobacco and alcohol together.

Like the rest of your skin, UV radiation from the sun can also have an impact. Over-exposure to sunlight increases the risk of cancer of the lips.

Another key risk factor that has been identified more recently is human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer and affects the skin that lines the moist areas of the body. It is now understood that HPV can be spread through oral sex, and according to the latest research HPV could soon rival smoking and drinking as one of the main causes of mouth cancer.

Although many people get HPV during their lives and for many this does not cause a problem. Action is, however, being taken to help reduce this risk. HPV vaccines for both girls and boys are now being introduced as routine, which is likely to help reduce the rates of mouth cancer. 

Mouth cancer in numbers

Figures published by the Oral Health Foundation show that mouth cancer is a serious health issue in the United Kingdom. More than 8,300 people in the are now diagnosed with mouth cancer every year – an increase of almost 50% in the last decade. 

Sadly, mouth cancer also claimed 2,722 lives in the UK last year. Many of these deaths occurred because the disease was caught too late – making it more important than ever to spread the message and help give people a better chance of survival.

How can I recognise mouth cancer?

Knowing the signs of mouth cancer and taking early action is one of the key messages of Mouth Cancer Action Month. The Oral Health Foundation is using the campaign to encourage everyone to be aware of any unusual changes in the mouth and know what to do if anything out of the ordinary is noticed – being Mouthaware.

According to Chief Executive Dr Nigel Carter OBE: “The first line of defence against mouth cancer is yourself.  Being able to identify mouth cancer at an early stage is vital for you being able to beat it.”

He recommends that everybody checks their mouths regularly, paying particular attention to mouth ulcers that do not heal within three weeks. People should also be aware of other possible signs of mouth cancer such as red and white patches in the mouth or lumps and swellings in the head and neck.

“If you spot something that doesn’t look normal, take action.  If in doubt, get checked out by your dentist or doctor. The decision could save your life.”

“Mouth Cancer Action Month is all about learning more about mouth cancer.  It’s the perfect opportunity to start checking your mouth at home and rethinking some of the things that might put you at greater risk.”  

At Perfect Pearls, checking your mouth for cancer forms part of our FREE consultation service so as well as receiving bespoke personal treatment options, you can be secure in the knowledge your mouth has been checked for any signs of anything that may cause concern.

For more information, including advice and information on how to spot risk factors and common signs and symptoms, as well as learning about the stories at the heart of the campaign, visit

If you have any questions or concerns about your oral health, the team at Perfect Pearls is happy to advise. Call us today on Wolverhampton 01902 500 823.

This article is adapted from