RATES of mouth cancer have risen by 68 per cent over the last 20 years because of people’s unhealthy lifestyles, according to new figures.
The life-changing disease is on the rise for men and women of all ages, official data showed.
Between 1993 to 1995, there were eight cases of mouth cancer per 100,000 people but this rose to 13 per 100,000 in the years from 2012 to 2014.
For men under 50, the rate has jumped by 67 per cent.
Twenty years ago there were around 340 cases per year in this age group, rising to around 640 now.
For men aged 50 and over, there were around 2,100 cases a year – now there are 4,400.
While mouth cancer is more common in men, women are also affected and have seen a 71 per cent rise in rates over the last 20 years.
Cancer Research UK, which analysed the data, issued a warning over the figures, saying nine out of 10 cases are linked to unhealthy lifestyles.
Smokers have a particularly high risk, while drinking alcohol, not eating enough fruit and vegetables, and the Human Papilloma Virus also play a part.
Mouth cancer – also known as oral cancer – is an umbrella term which includes cancer of the lips, tongue, mouth including gums and palate, tonsils and the middle part of the throat.
Jessica Kirby of Cancer Research UK said: “It’s worrying that oral cancer has become more common. It’s important to get to know your body and what’s normal for you, to help spot the disease as early as possible.
“An ulcer or sore in your mouth or tongue that won’t go away, a lump on your lip or in your mouth, a red or red and white patch in your mouth or an unexplained lump in your neck are all things to look out for.
“Speak to your GP or dentist about any changes that are unusual or don’t go away.
“Healthy lifestyles can help reduce the risk of developing the disease in the first place. Not smoking, drinking less alcohol and eating plenty of fruit and vegetables can all help to cut our risk of mouth cancer.
“HPV vaccination could help protect against oral HPV infections, and it can prevent a range of cancers associated with the HPV virus, so it’s a good idea to get the vaccine if you are offered it.”