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Dentists offer free checks for mouth cancer

As part of Mouth Cancer Awareness Day, dentists across the country are offering free checks to the public to help detect a disease occurring with greater frequency in Ireland.

Library photo posed by models.
Library photo posed by models.
Image: John Birdsall/John Birdsall/Press Association Images

AROUND TWO PEOPLE die every week in Ireland from mouth cancer – yet the disease is relatively unknown, say dentists.

Less than 50 per cent of people with mouth cancer survive more than five years after being diagnosed – a fact that dentists partly attribute to low detection rates at the early stages of the cancer’s development. About half of patients with mouth cancer do not seek help before the disease is advanced, making full recovery less likely, according to the National Cancer Registry in Ireland.

To raise awareness about the condition, more than 700 dentists and two dental schools are offering free checks to the public on Wednesday 21 September, as part of Mouth Cancer Awareness Day 2011. The examination is painless and takes about 10 minutes.

Health care specialists say that although, in the past, mouth cancer used to mostly affect males and older people, there is a marked increase in the number of females and young people developing the cancer. In Britain, the incidence of mouth cancer has increased faster than any other type of cancer in the past 25 years.

While it is not known why mouth cancer is becoming more prevalent, there are several lifestyle risks associated with it:

  • Smoking – tobacco, cigarettes, roll-ups, cigars, pipes or cannabis
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Smoking and drinking together – this greatly increases the risk
  • Excessive exposure to sunlight or radiation
  • A diet lacking in fruit and vegetables
  • Viral infections, eg, human papillomavirus – HPV can be spread through oral sex
  • Chewing tobacco, betelguid, gutkha and paan

See a list of participating dentists>

National Cancer Helpline: 1800 200 700

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