Oral cancer rates must be tackled, Parliamentarians hear

23 November 2010

Professor Saman Warnakulasuriya of King’s College London Dental Institute has told a cross-party group of MPs and Peers that more needs to be done to combat the increasing incidence rate of mouth cancers across the UK. Speaking at an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Dentistry meeting this week, the Professor of Oral Medicine and Experimental Oral Pathology highlighted that alcohol and tobacco use are the main modifiable risk factors associated with the disease, alongside a healthy diet. To tackle the high incidence rates, he said that there needs to be more awareness of the disease amongst the public, more training for dentists and tougher policies on harm reduction such as a review of the Government’s alcohol policy and for the Government to back point of sale tobacco legislation. He added there needs to be tighter control over the sale of betel quid, a chewing tobacco which is widely used amongst the UK’s South Asian community. Professor Warnakulasuriya pointed out that the packaging of chewing tobacco does not contain any health messages, which is a concern given the higher incidence of oral cancer in the UK’s South Asian community than the general population. Attendees at the meeting, held in the Palace of Westminster, also heard about evidence from a study in the publication ‘Oral Oncology’ of emerging risk factors associated with the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). This could correlate with an increase in incidence in the young, he said.

Prior to Prof Warnakulasuriya’s presentation, parliamentarians heard from Andy Large who was diagnosed with oral cancer in 2001. Andy – a Parliamentary Party Candidate (PPC) in the last election – told of his story which resulted in him receiving extreme radiotherapy for his diagnosis in order to treat the spread of the cancer beyond the lymph nodes. He also said that he had little awareness of the signs and symptoms prior to his experience of the disease and urged the public that they should visit their dentist regularly.

View all news >