Male and Asian? You may be a high risk for mouth cancer


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

Additionally, a leading doctor has warned Asians living in the UK that their significantly high risk of developing mouth cancer.

New figures show that around 5,300 men are diagnosed with oral cancer every year compared to 2,500 women.

The data also reveals oral cancer is more often diagnosed in men at a younger age compared with other cancers.

The difference between cases in men and women may be due to men indulging more heavily in smoking, alcohol and contracting human papillomavirus (HPV). An estimated 75% of male oral and pharyngeal cancers in the UK are linked to tobacco smoking.

Meanwhile, Dr Chet Trivedy, an A&E consultant at Kingston Hospital in London, believes common cultural habits in many British-Asian communities, such as tobacco and betel (areca) nut chewing, is placing thousands at severe risk of developing mouth cancer.

Dr Trivedy, who is also a dentist and trustee of the Oral Health Foundation, says chewing tobacco and betel nut increases a person’s risk of developing mouth cancer by up to seven times. 

Highlighting the significance of the issue, Dr Trivedy, wants more British Asians to be aware of the dangers of chewing products containing betel nut and tobacco, also referred to as ‘paan’ or ‘paan masala’, and emphasises the need for greater education about its links to mouth cancer.

He says: 'I grew up in the Gujarati (Indian) community in Britain and have seen first-hand the devastating effect that mouth cancer can have on our community, not only through my work but also on a personal level. I am therefore incredibly keen to draw attention to this major problem.”

A recent study led by the University of York revealed as many as a quarter of a million deaths worldwide are caused by smokeless tobacco products every year.

The study found a ‘hotspot’ of use in South and South-East Asia, in particular India, which accounts for almost three quarters (74 per cent) of the total global disease burden.

Dr Trivedy has issued the warning as part of Mouth Cancer Action Month, a campaign which aims to raise awareness of mouth cancer, promote the value of self-examination and encourage regular trips to the dentist, as they perform a visual mouth cancer check during every dental check-up.

'Mouth cancer awareness in Asian communities is vital as it has a very high mortality rate,' Dr Trivedy says.

'Survival chances are closely linked to late diagnosis but far too many cases are being caught too late for effective intervention, particularly with Asian communities who may be less active at accessing healthcare.

'I encourage British Asian communities to spot the warning signs, ulcers which do not heal within two weeks, red or white patches in the mouth and any unusual lumps in the head or neck area. Visit a dentist or doctor if they notice anything unusual. 

'Betel nut chewing is particularly associated with a condition call oral submucous fibrosis (OSF), which causes severe scarring in the mouth resulting in affected patients only being able to open their mouth by a few milometers’. 

About 7% of those affected will go on to develop mouth cancer. 

'I want the British Asian community to become more involved in mouth cancer awareness and help make a difference by spreading lifesaving messages throughout their communities and beyond.'

As Mouth Cancer Action Month drew to a close yesterday, the Oral Health Foundation stressed that mouth cancer can affect anyone, so everybody needs to be able to recognise and act on the early warning signs all year around in order to improve early diagnosis and help save lives which otherwise could be lost to this terrible disease.

If you haven't seen your dentist in the last 12 months, book a check up today.

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