Patients from Bristol receive screenings for oral cancer at Clifton Dental Studio

Whether you live in Bristol or Bangor, no-one likes to hear the word cancer. Oral cancer is one of the varieties that most people do not think will affect them but unfortunately it is currently on the rise in the UK.

Figures from Cancer Research UK in March showed that with 6,200 cases this year, cases have increased significantly from the 4,400 cases a decade ago. Two-thirds of the sufferers are men.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, most cases are still linked to smoking but smoking is less common than before so there are other factors explaining the rise. Alcohol misuse and the spread of the human papillomavirus (HPV) infection are thought to be possible explanations for the increase. However, HPV sufferers are less likely to find their cancer fatal than smokers.

Almost eight of every ten people in the UK are affected with HPV at some point in their lives but this rarely leads to oral cancer. These tend to affect younger people who are also more likely to get the problem fixed with a visit to the dentist. On the other hand, oral cancer usually takes about a decade to develop.

The best way to avoid oral cancer is to moderate drinking and smoking habits, but this should always be matched by regular check-ups at your dentist. Every six months is a good estimate for most people to visit their dentist but this can vary depending on your specific needs. Your dentist will give your mouth a going over to make sure there is no damage which needs taking care of. The earlier you discover any problems, the more likely you will be able to do something about it. So keep brushing your teeth and keep visiting your dentist and we should be able to keep this at bay!