How Hepatitis C infection can increase the risk of Mouth Cancer
According to new research published by the National Cancer Institute, those who have contracted the Hepatitis C infection (HCV) are at an increased risk of developing mouth cancer. As it’s estimated that around 200,000 people in the UK currently have chronic HCV infection (Public Health England), the Oral Health Foundation are looking to raise awareness regarding the related risks.
What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a virus that is contracted through blood-to-blood contact, infecting and potentially causing serious damage to the liver.
Ways in which Hepatitis C can be passed on include:
• Misuse of drugs/use of un-sterilised needles
• Blood transfusions
• Unprotected sex
• From a pregnant woman to her unborn baby
Association with other conditions
The latest research from the National Cancer Institute reveals links between Hepatitis C and oral health problems like tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease.
Association with cancer of the mouth and associated areas
Experts have suggested that those who have hepatitis C should be alert to other symptoms including, unusual lumps or swellings around the head or neck area, white or red patches in the mouth and ulcers which take considerably longer to heal. Signs such as these may indicate a deeper, underlying problem in which case it would be recommended that you seek medical or dental advice.
Dr. Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation said, “There are fantastic support networks, information and improved treatments which all play a role in greater survival rates but this all depends on an early diagnosis. If HCV patients look out for the major signs and symptoms they can dramatically improve their chances of survival.”
He also claimed that “Someone is diagnosed with mouth cancer every 77 minutes in the UK, that is less time than its takes to play a rugby game and it claims more lives every than road traffic accidents on Britain’s roads; we have to do something to address these shocking statistics.”
Regular dental check-ups are an important part of ensuring your mouth is healthy, and your dentist should be checking that there are no signs of mouth cancer every time you attend. For more information about what is expected of dentists in terms of identifying mouth cancer, click here, or alternatively, visit www.mouthcancer.org.