Science News

Opening Up To Mouth Cancer

Sun, 20th Nov 2005

Part of the show Genetics, DNA Extraction and the Human Genome Project

DNA is found within all our cells, and contains the genetic instructions that tell our cells when to grow and multiply, and when to stop. Cancer starts when DNA gets damaged so the cell cannot understand these instructions and starts to multiply out of control, to make a tumour. Mouth cancer is on the increase in the UK - rates have gone up by a quarter in the past decade, and in men in their forties and fifties, we've seen the number of cases of mouth cancer double. But many people don't even know the disease exists. Cancer Research UK did a survey and found that one in five people have never heard of mouth cancer, so the charity has launched an awareness campaign this week to highlight the disease. They also found that while three-quarters of people surveyed knew that smoking could increase your risk of mouth cancer, only a quarter knew that drinking alcohol also increased the risk. Cancer Research UK experts think that around three out of every four cases of the disease are caused by smoking and drinking. And it's not just binge drinkers, it's the total amount of alcohol you drink throughout the week that increases your risk of mouth cancer - so we could all benefit from cutting down on the booze and quitting smoking. But what should you look for? The early symptoms of mouth cancer include sores, mouth ulcers, a hoarse voice or sore throat, red or white patches or lumps that don't go away after three weeks. So if you spot anything funny that is there for three or four weeks, then get along to your GP or dentist and get yourself checked out. You can find out more about Cancer Research UK's mouth cancer campaign at


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