How You Can Dramatically Cut Risk of Mouth Cancer with Diet – And Increase It

November 23, 2010

Mouth cancer is one of the fastest growing cancers in the UK, and is the cause of more deaths than cervical cancer and testicular cancer combined with one death from it every five hours. I have previously highlighted the risks of mouth cancer and now there is news of a specific preventive that works extremely well in helping us avoid mouth cancer and points out exactly what to avoid. For the first time, folic acid intake has been shown to affect the risk of the disease and an unhealthy diet means a threefold increase in risk.

This new information comes from a study of 87,000 nurses who were followed for 30 years from 1976 by researchers from the Columbia University Medical Centre and Harvard School of Public Health. What they found was that women who consume high volumes of folic acid found in Vitamin B from vegetables and some fruits are much less likely to suffer from mouth cancer.

You will find high levels of folic acid in spinach, beetroot, potato, Brussels sprouts, sweet potato, broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, banana, oranges and peaches.

What to avoid:
The researchers also discovered that women who drank a high volume of alcohol and had low folic acid intake were three times more likely to develop mouth cancer than those who drank high volumes of alcohol but had high volumes of folic acid in their diet. Alcohol is one of the major risk factors for mouth cancer and those who drink to excess are four times more likely to be diagnosed. Alcohol leads to a reduction in folic acid metabolism by creating acetaldehyde which leads to a reduction of folic acid in the body.

As social habits have changed, so women have been drinking more and the rates of mouth cancer in women have been increasing for many years. It is also be linked to the fact that we are consuming less fresh fruit and vegetables than previous generations.

Previous studies have tended to focus on men, as they are twice as likely to suffer from the disease, but this new information also applies to them.

Recent research has also shown that an increase in food such as eggs and fish that contain Omega 3, and nuts, seeds and brown rice, which are high in fibre, can help decrease the risks. Also brushing twice a day and flossing are key ingredients in oral health and help keep your risk factor down. With its low survival rate, it is critical to pay attention to prevention as only around half of diagnosed cases survive for 5 years.

What to look for:
The Mouth Cancer Action Month Campaign aims to increase awareness and reverse this trend with the theme ‘If in doubt get checked out’. Early warning signs to look out for include a mouth ulcer that has not healed within three weeks, red or white patches in the mouth and any unusual swelling or lumps in the mouth. These are all signs that you should get your dentist or doctor to check you out as soon as possible.

Mouth cancer is twice more common in men than in women, though an increasing number of women are being diagnosed with the disease. Previously, the disease has been five times more common in men than women. Age is another factor, with people over the age of 40 more likely to be diagnosed, though more young people are now being affected than previously.

The two biggest risk factors are alcohol, gum disease and tobacco and if you both smoke and drink alcohol in excess you are up to 30 times more likely to be diagnosed with mouth cancer.

For more information visit or call the Dental Helpline, which offers free impartial advice to consumers on 0845 063 1188 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.


Article by  


What do you think of this health article by ? Join the discussion...