Recent studies show a pattern of increase in cases of oral cancer and Cancer Research UK has said the increase is due to higher rates of high-risk strains of sexually transmitted human papilloma virus (HPV) contracted during oral sex.
According to Cancer Research UK, the rates of mouth cancer have exceeded 6,000 a year for the first time in the UK. BBC reports this figure compares with 4,400 cases a decade ago.
Two-thirds of about 6,200 cases diagnosed in the UK in 2011 were in men.
BBC reports experts say risk factors in mouth cancer include heavy drinking, smoking and sexually transmitted HPV infection. But the increase in cases of mouth cancer come in spite of the fact that smoking and alcohol use rates have fallen significantly in the past decade.
According to The Independent, the incidence of oral cancer used to be highest in older patients who were heavy smokers or drinkers, but with smoking rates having reduced by half in Britain in the last three decades, younger patients who do not smoke are turning up in clinics in increasing numbers with oral HPV infection.
Daily Mail reports medical experts say up to eight in 10 Britons will contract HPV infection in their lives but the infection is usually harmless. However, there are a few strains of the virus that cause health complications.
One of such is the HPV-16 known to induce cancer. BBC reports experts have seen a 90 percent increase in cases of HPV-related cancers at the base of the tongue (from 284 to 595 cases) and a 70 percent increase in tonsil cancers (from 573 to 1,052).
According to Daily Mail, Richard Shaw, expert in head and neck cancers at the Liverpool Cancer Research UK Center, said: "We have seen a rapid increase in the number of HPV16-positive cases of oral cancer." He said: "We have also noticed that patients with HPV-related oral cancers tend to be younger, are less likely to be smokers and have better outcomes from treatment than those whose tumours show no evidence of HPV. This raises questions as to exactly how these cancers develop and why they only affect a small proportion of people who are exposed."
Sara Hiom, director of information at Cancer Research UK, said: "It's worrying to see such a big rise in oral cancer rates.But like many other cancers, if oral cancer is caught early, there is a better chance of successful treatment. So it's really important for people to know the signs and symptoms of oral cancer - mainly mouth ulcers that just won't heal, any lumps or thickening in the mouth, lips or throat, or red or white patches in the mouth that won't go away.It's not just doctors who have a vital role to play. If you're worried about any of these symptoms you can see your dentist as well. Dentists have an important role to play in spotting oral cancer early and encouraging their patients to take care of their mouths. So make sure you attend regular dental check-ups."