The eight most common cancer in the UK is mouth and throat cancer. Only in 2013, 10,655 new cases were diagnosed, and the rates are still going up. Moreover, this type of cancer is twice more common in men than women.
According to scientists’ estimations, 2 out of 3 throat cancer cases could be prevented if patients choose healthy diet, and avoid alcohol and cigarettes.
This type of cancer affects the tongue, lips, gums, tonsils, lining of the mouth and the upper part of the throat.
The pharynx (medical term for throat) leads down from the nose and mouth to the voicebox, also known as the larynx (the voicebox). Larynx cancer is also called laryngeal cancer. The cause of mouth and throat cancers are damaged cells which can grow uncontrollably to form a tumour. By using tobacco or drinking alcohol you are directly exposing these parts to carcinogenic substances.
While tobacco and alcohol are the main causes of mouth and throat cancer, and avoiding them is a great start to protect yourself from this type of cancer, there are other factors that can cause, or prevent mouth and throat cancer.
Like any other type of cancer, the risk of developing mouth and throat cancer depends on a number of factors and varies from person to person. Luckily, there are ways to reduce the risk.
People who smoke and/or use tobacco, chew betel nut or paan (a South, East and South East Asian tradition), and/or drink alcohol are most at risk.
Most common risk factors
- Smoking/using tobacco
- Drinking alcohol
- Having a diet low in vegetables and fruits
Other risk factors
- Your age – people over 40 are at bigger risk of developing this cancer
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) exposure – it can be transmitted through oral sex, thus making it a risk factor
- Drinking AND smoking significantly increase the risk.
If you are prone to any of the risk factors mentioned above, don’t panic because it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will develop the cancer, but that your risk is higher than those to whom these risk factors don’t apply.
Ways to prevent mouth and throat cancer
- Avoid tobacco. If you are a smoker or tobacco user, NHS stop smoking can help you quit.
- Reduce alcohol intake. There is strong scientific evidence that alcohol increases the risk of mouth and throat cancer.
- Go for a healthy diet. There solid proofs that vegetables and fruits probably protect against cancers of the mouth and throat, so aim for at least five portions of a variety of different types each day.