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Alcohol To Blame for Alarming Rise In Oral Cancer

by Gopalan on August 16, 2009 at 10:22 PM
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 Alcohol To Blame for Alarming Rise In Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is shooting up in the UK, especially among men and women in their forties, and alcohol is to blame.

Numbers of cancers of the lip, mouth, tongue and throat in this age group have risen by 26% in the past decade.

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Alcohol consumption has doubled since the 1950s and is the most likely culprit alongside smoking, says Cancer Research UK.

The charity's health information manager Hazel Nunn said: "These latest figures are really alarming.

"Around three-quarters of oral cancers are thought to be caused by smoking and drinking alcohol.
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"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."

Oral cancer can be treated successfully if diagnosed early enough.

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.

On its website the charity says: Drinking alcohol is the second most important cause of mouth cancer after tobacco. 75-80% of mouth cancer patients say they frequently drink alcohol.

People who smoke and drink alcohol have the highest risk of mouth cancer. If you don't use tobacco, then how much you drink is the most important risk factor for mouth cancer.

Drinking three or more units of alcohol per day increases your risk of mouth cancer. When you drink more than this, every additional drink increases your risk even further.

In the UK we're drinking more and more alcohol. We now drink more than twice as much as we drank 50 years ago. And at least 20% of women and 35% of men are drinking more than the government recommends.

The more you cut down on alcohol, the more you reduce your cancer risk.

There is limited risk if you only drink a little - such as one small drink a day for women or two small drinks a day for men - but the risk increases the more you drink.

Each year in the UK around 1,800 people die from the disease.

There are 5,000 newly diagnosed cases per year.

Other risk factors that may be involved include a diet low in fruit and vegetables, and the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV), which also causes cervical cancer.

Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, said: "The really lethal cocktail is drinking strong spirits and smoking - a carcinogenic double whammy for the delicate lining of the mouth and throat. My advice is if you drink, don't smoke - and if you must smoke, avoid spirits."



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