Diabetics and Mouth Cancer

An oral health charity has reminded diabetics to be aware of the signs and symptoms for mouth cancer.

The reminder comes as research has identified people suffering with diabetes are at ‘significantly’ greater risk of developing head and neck cancer.

The study discovered that people with diabetes are almost 50 per cent more likely to develop the disease compared to those without diabetes.

From those cancers identified, it was cancer of the mouth and throat that were the most common areas diagnosed, with diabetics aged 40-65 discovered to be the most at risk.

In the UK, 3.2 million people have diabetes. A further 630,000 people are predicted to have Type 2 diabetes which has not yet been diagnosed. Left untreated, diabetes can cause many health problems, including damaged blood vessels, nerves and organs.

Latest statistics reveal mouth cancer cases have ballooned to more than 6,700 while deaths exceeded 2,000 for the first time. It is one of the few types of cancer predicted to increase within the next decade.

More people die from mouth cancer than from cervical and testicular cancer combined. Without early detection, the five year survival rate for mouth cancer is only 50 per cent. If it is caught early, survival rates over five years can dramatically improve to up to 90 per cent as well as the quality of life for survivors being significantly increased.

Taking place throughout November, Mouth Cancer Action Month, organised by the British Dental Health Foundation, aims to raise awareness of the disease and the associated risks. On World Diabetes Day, Chief Executive Dr Nigel Carter OBE, urges diabetics to find out more about the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer.

Dr Carter said: “This could be a very significant piece of research, and one that could help to save many lives. Diabetes has previously been linked to poor oral health, yet this is the first time it has been linked to mouth cancer.

“This makes regular dental visits an absolute must. If your dentists know that you are diabetic, they will check your mouth accordingly, especially if it could help to catch mouth cancer.

“It is important, not just for diabetics but for everyone to be aware of what the signs and symptoms of the disease are. Ulcers which do not heal within three weeks, red and white patches in the mouth and unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth could be early warning signs of mouth cancer. If you experience any of these visit your dentist immediately.

“Tobacco use, drinking alcohol to excess, poor diet and the human papillomavirus (HPV), often transmitted via oral sex, are all lifestyle choices that will increase the risk of developing the disease. If diabetes is another potential risk factor, amending your lifestyle to make sure you take yourself out of harm’s way is more important than ever to be mouth aware.

“Our message to everyone is clear – if in doubt, get checked out.”

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