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British Experts Blame Alcohol Use For Increase In Oral Cancers

August 11, 2009

A leading British charity warned on Tuesday that an “alarming” growth in oral cancer rates for people in their 40s is largely due to rising alcohol consumption, AFP reported.

A growing number of 40-somethings developing cancer of the mouth, tongue, lip and throat in Britain has gone up by 28 percent for men and 24 percent for women since the mid-1990s, according to new figures from Cancer Research UK.

The leading cause of oral cancers from smoking and tobacco use often take up to 30 years to develop, prompting experts to suggest that the main culprit for the increase is likely the second biggest risk factor — alcohol.

Hazel Nunn, health information manager at the charity, said alcohol consumption has doubled since the 1950s and the trend they are now seeing is likely to be linked to Britain’s continually rising drinking levels.

She said the latest alarming figures show rates of oral cancers have increased by more than 45 percent since records began in 1975.

“Around three quarters of oral cancers are thought to be caused by smoking and drinking alcohol. Tobacco is, by far, the main risk factor for oral cancer… But for people in their 40s, it seems that other factors are also contributing to this jump in oral cancer rates,” she said.

Other factors of oral cancers include a diet low in fruit and vegetables, and the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV).

Britain has about 5,000 new diagnosed cases of oral cancers a year, and about 1,800 people die of the disease.

However, many people are not aware of the connection between alcohol and cancer, according to Don Shenker, chief executive of the charity Alcohol Concern.

He said that while alcoholic liver disease remains the number one killer linked to alcohol, more and more people are suffering from oral cancers.

“Record drinking levels have undeniably played a part,” he warned.

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