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Figures released by Cancer Research UK show that since the mid-1990s, rates of oral cancers have gone up by 28% for men in their forties and 24% for women. Smoking and alcohol consumption are the two main risk factors for oral cancers, the charity says. But since cancers caused by smoking often take up to 30 years to develop, it is thought alcohol consumption is the reason for the increase.

Other possible causes include low fruit and vegetable consumption and the presence of the sexually-transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV), which can also cause cervical cancer and gential warts. Cancer Research UK’s health information manager Hazel Nunn said: “These latest figures are really alarming.

“Tobacco is, by far, the main risk factor for oral cancer, so it’s important that we keep encouraging people to give up and think about new ways to stop people taking it up in the first place. But for people in their 40s, it seems that other factors are also contributing to this jump in oral cancer rates. Alcohol consumption has doubled since the 1950s and the trend we are now seeing is likely to be linked to Britain’s continually rising drinking levels.”

Each year around 5,000 new oral cancers are diagnosed in the UK and 1,800 people die from the disease. Oral cancers include those of the lip, tongue, mouth, throat and a region called the piriform sinus. The most common signs of the disease are ulcers, sores, or red or white patches in the mouth that last longer than three weeks, together with unexplained pain in the mouth or ear.

“The good news is that oral cancer can be treated successfully if it’s caught early enough and thats why we recommend regular visits to your dentist,” said Dr Singh.

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