Research links diabetes and mouth cancer, are you being checked?

People with diabetes are at ‘significantly’ greater risk of developing head and neck cancer, according to new research.

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

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. 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.

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.

At The Exeter Dental Centre we make sure to ask all our patients about their health, including whether they have diabetes or a family history of it.  Regular dental visits are an absolute must, for everyone, but more so for those with diabetes.

We are always on the lookout for early signs of mouth cancer and check all our patients during their annual check ups. 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.

Smoking, or chewing tobacco, 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.

Mike Hesketh

Owner and Principal Dentist

The Exeter Dental Centre