Non-smokers are more likely to develop mouth cancer

New research has discovered that non-smokers face a substantially higher risk of developing mouth cancer than smokers if they have precancerous lesions in their mouth.

The research from the University of British Columbia, published in Oral Oncology, looked at almost 450 patients with precancerous oral lesions and discovered that non-smokers were more than twice as likely to see them develop into mouth cancer than smokers.

In some cases, non-smokers with lesions on the floor of the mouth were a staggering 38 times more likely to develop into cancer than in smokers.

The researchers speculated that the difference between smokers and non-smokers was due to a difference in the root causes of the lesions. In smokers, they were likely the result of environmental factors, whereas in non-smokers, genetic susceptibility or mutations were the probable cause.

Dr Nigel Carter, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation said: “Smoking may be the leading cause of mouth cancer, linked to around three in every four cases, but non-smokers need to be just as vigilant in spotting and acting on any changes to the mouth.

“Catching mouth cancer early can dramatically increase your chances of beating the disease so it is vitally important to check regularly for the early warning.

“Everybody should be alert to mouth ulcers which do not heal within three weeks, red or white patches in the mouth and any unusual lumps in the head and neck area. If anybody has any of these signs, you should visit your dentist or doctor straight away.”