09/11/2007

Smokers Warned On Mouth Cancer Danger

Nearly 50 people die every year in Northern Ireland from mouth cancer.

Approximately 145 people are diagnosed with this form of oral cancer here every year, with about one third dying from the disease. In fact, in the UK overall, one individual dies every five hours from mouth cancer.

Gerry McElwee, Head of Cancer Prevention at the Ulster Cancer Foundation (UCF) said: “Mouth cancer is curable if treated in its early stages, but it is also preventable.

“During the forthcoming mouth cancer awareness week we therefore want to alert people to the main risk factors for this disease as well as the signs and symptoms,” he explained.

Gerry said that mouth cancer is a malignant growth, which can occur in or on any part of the mouth, tongue or lips. It can often present itself as a painless ulcer that does not heal or less often, a red or white patch in the mouth.

“Smoking is by far the most important risk factor associated with mouth cancer – so our advice is to stop as soon as possible,” he continued.

“There is help available for anyone who wants to quit and smokers can quadruple their chances of success if they combine pharmacological therapies with stop smoking support services.

“Indeed, UCF has provided almost 30 clinics, supported by the Eastern Health & Social Services Board in the last year and has helped over 50% of those attending to stop smoking within four weeks.

“In recent years UCF has also trained 200 local dentists on the importance of smoking cessation as a means of preventing mouth cancer. Regular dental check ups also ensure that the dentist will notice any early warning signs of mouth cancer,” he said.

Gerry also cautioned against alcohol: “Drinking excess alcohol also increases the risk of developing mouth cancer and people who smoke and drink are up to 30 times more likely to develop this condition.

“The message is clear – stop smoking, reduce your intake of alcohol, eat a healthy diet with at least five daily servings of vegetables and fruit and go to your dentist on a regular basis to help reduce your risk of developing mouth cancer.”

He concluded that the causes and symptoms of mouth cancer are to be emphasised during Mouth Cancer Awareness Week - Sunday 11th to Saturday 17th November 2007.

(BMcC)

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