What's the problem?
Scotland has seen an increase in the incidence of oral and oropharyngeal cancers in the last 30 years with
rates significantly higher in Scotland than the UK average. It remains unclear, how the suspension of routine care during the pandemic may have impacted these rates.
The main risk factors for developing oral and oropharyngeal cancer include tobacco and alcohol use (especially in combination), human papillomavirus (HPV), as well as gender (males), increasing age, and low socioeconomic position.
Our Oral Cancer Working Group aims to raise awareness among dentists, doctors and pharmacists of the increasing incidence of oral and oropharyngeal cancers.
Read our report: 'Oral cancer - A plan for action', which highlights some of the key trends in Scotland and sets our recommendations to key stakeholders.
We're also focused on HPV vaccinations. HPV is strongly linked to the recent increase in oropharyngeal cancers. These cancers are distributed unevenly among the population with the greatest number in the most deprived areas.
We welcomed the extension of the HPV immunisation programme in Scotland to adolescent boys. This means the vaccine is now offered to every pupil in their first year of secondary school (S1) regardless of gender, which will help protect them from developing HPV-related cancers later in life.
However, we were disappointed that older boys still in school were not offered the vaccine as part of a catch-up programme. This leaves over 140,000 children exposed to the virus.
What can dentists do?
You can play a leading role in reducing the impact of oral and oropharyngeal cancer in Scotland several ways:
Look for oral and oropharyngeal cancer during routine oral examinations of registered patients. This may lead to a discussion on risk factor with patients.
Provide rapid access to an oral examination for patients who have suspected lesions found by general medical practitioners (GMPs) and pharmacists of non-registered patients by local agreement.
Refer suspected lesions to the local OMFS unit, or equivalent, for investigation.
Raise public awareness of oral and oropharyngeal cancer by taking part in the OHF's
Mouth Cancer Action Month every November.
- Encourage those eligible to have the HPV vaccination and tell patients about the dangers of smoking and alcohol.
Oral cancer resources for dentists and teams
We encourage you to use, and share these resources with your colleagues and dental teams: