You might be surprised that mouth and throat cancer is the eighth most common type of cancer in the UK. What’s more, around 91% of cases are linked to lifestyle. This Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week (19-23 September), we’re shining a light on how you can prevent this disease.
- Stop smoking
Whether you smoke or chew tobacco, it goes without saying you have a higher risk of developing mouth and throat cancer. Smokers are three times more likely to develop mouth cancer and seven times more likely to develop throat cancer than non-smokers.
Tobacco is a carcinogen that doesn’t just harm your lungs; the chemicals in tobacco products can change the DNA in your cells, which can cause tumours to develop around the mouth and spread to surrounding areas.
The good news is, quitting reduces your risk by more than a third. So what are you waiting for? The NHS has lots of support to help you quit smoking: from nicotine patches and gum to stress-relieving techniques and therapy.
Stopping smoking also benefits those around you. Research has shown that the mouth cancer risk is over twice as high in those who have never smoked but have regularly been exposed to second-hand smoke for 15 years or more, compared with non-smokers not exposed.
- Drink moderately
Did you know alcohol is also a carcinogen? People who consume approximately 3.5 or more alcoholic drinks per day have a two to three times greater risk of developing cancers of the lip, throat and voice box than non-drinkers. Your risk of cancer increases if you drink and use tobacco.
To lower your intake, save alcohol for special occasions or limit drinking to the weekends. If you’re struggling with alcohol dependency, speak to your GP. There are many support groups and counselling services available to help you address the reasons for your drinking.
- Eat healthy
As well as improving your dental health, it is estimated that 1 in 10 cancers could be prevented with a healthy diet.
Bowel, stomach, larynx, lung and oesophagus cancer have all been linked to bad diet as well as mouth and throat cancer. This is because of the nitrites present in processed foods which may form carcinogenic nitrosamines.
Choose more fruit, vegetables and high-fibre foods than red meats, salty and processed foods. Why not draw up a meal plan for the week and factor in a couple of meat-free days?
- Practice safe sex
Did you know, in some instances, intimate health can play a role in mouth and throat cancer? Human Papillomavirus is very common in sexually active people, and 90% of infections go away by themselves. But in some cases, HPV may persist and cause abnormal tissue growth and cell changes, which can lead to cancer.
It’s thought that HPV can be transmitted to the mouth through oral sex, so the best way to prevent this is by getting regular sexual health screenings and using barrier protection.
Speak to someone
At Number 18, we want our patients to be as healthy as possible. Regular check-ups with your dentist and GP are important so that they can monitor any changes.
Since 91% of mouth cancer cases can be prevented, there’s no time like the present to start living a healthier life. If you have any concerns about mouth and throat cancer, speak to your dentist and GP as soon as possible.