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Mouth cancer checks urged

26th September 2012

A charity has urged dentists to take a frontline role in the fight against cancer.

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With rates of oral cancer on the rise, Cancer Research UK (CRUK) says dentists are ideally placed to spot the condition.

The charity is concerned that some dentists are missing an opportunity to spot those at risk and that they should be asking about risk factors like smoking or heavy drinking as well as early tell-tale signs in the mouth.

Oral cancer affects the lips, tongue, gums, palate and floor of the mouth and there are fears that by 2030 there will be 9,200 cases of oral cancer in the UK every year compared with 6,240 in 2009.

CRUK head of health evidence and information Hazel Nunn said: “Too often oral cancer is found at a late stage when treatment is devastating and the chances of survival are poor.

“Dental teams are in a unique position to help detect oral cancer in its earlier stages when it's easier to treat and the outlook is greatly improved.

“If a dentist is looking at someone's teeth and knows this person smokes 50 cigarettes a day and drinks well above the recommended amount, he might look that extra bit more carefully.”

Annually, mouth cancer kills 1,700 people in the UK but early detection can increase chances of survival from 50% to about 90%.

CRUK, the British Society for Oral Medicine, and the British Association for the Study of Community Dentistry want the detection and prevention of oral cancer a compulsory part of dentists’ training.

 

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