The top three causes of mouth cancer


As Mouth Cancer Awareness Month comes to a close, we take a closer look at the causes of the disease and how to lower the risk. 

The UK sees more than 8,700 new cases of mouth cancer every year.

Most deaths from mouth cancer take place due to late detection. The Mouth Cancer Foundation say this is down to low public awareness of the risks, signs and symptoms.

So what are the key risk factors?


According to the Oral Health Foundation, smoking tobacco increases your risk of mouth cancer by up to 10 times. This includes not only cigarettes but also pipes or cigars.

Statistics reveal that two thirds of mouth cancers are linked to smoking.

Although the UK may be experiencing a drop in the number of people smoking, it still remains the leading cause of mouth cancer.


Drinking alcohol is another major risk factor when it comes to mouth cancer. 

Those who drink between 10 and 42 units of alcohol a week could be increasing the risk by as much as 81%. And for those who smoke tobacco and drink alcohol, the risk could triple.

Cases of mouth cancer are nearly three times higher in people who drink regularly.


HPV is a sexually-transmitted infection that is often harmless and clears up on its own.

However it can go on to cause certain types of cancer, including that of the oropharynx (the back of the throat, including the tonsils and the base of the tongue).

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, said: 'Around 90% of HPV infections usually go away by themselves within two years, however, for some people they can lead to changes to the mouth and lead to cancer in the future.

'Practising safe sex and limiting the number of partners you have may help reduce your chances of contracting HPV.'

Updated 3rd November 2022

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