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Helping smokers to quit is key to fighting oral cancer in Scotland

Blog Author David Cross

Blog Date 30/07/2018



​Oral cancers – including cancers of the mouth, throat and larynx – are some of the fastest rising types of cancer and kill more than twice as many people than car accidents in Scotland.

Oral cancers are some of the most preventable types of cancer; and over 90% of all oral cancer cases could be avoided.

We know that smoking is one of the main causes of oral cancer, so it is deeply concerning that in Scotland there was a 40% drop in GP prescriptions for smoking cessation products between 2005-06 and 2016-17.

A combination of support and medication has been shown to be the most effective way to help smokers quit, and that is why we are calling on the Scottish Government and NHS Boards to ensure that adequate funding is provided for these vital services.

According to NHS figures, 1,240 people in Scotland were diagnosed with cancer of the head and neck in 2016 and almost 500 people died from these cancers in Scotland that year. 

Head and neck incidence rates in Scotland are significantly higher than the UK average.

Oral cancers are not only one of the fastest growing types of cancers in Scotland – they are also among the most unequally distributed – with the greatest burden in the most deprived areas; a person in Glasgow is almost 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with a cancer of the oral cavity than a person in Grampian.

Since 2016, the BDA Scotland Oral Cancer Working Group has been raising awareness of this deadly disease, calling for funding for real prevention, and therefore reducing the burden of oral cancers on the Scottish population.

There are some useful resources for dental professionals on the BDA's website, including an oral cancer toolkit to help you identify, diagnose and refer cases. And our Group is currently developing a referral pathway, and an oral cancer action plan.

We will also be holding an oral cancer event at the Scottish Parliament in November to coincide with Mouth Cancer Action Month, and we will be inviting MSPs and other stakeholders to attend, to raise these issues. 

David Cross, Vice Chair

BDA Scottish Council


BDA Scotland

BDA Scotland supports, represents and promotes, the interests of all dentists working in Scotland. Working with elected committee members, we negotiate on behalf of the profession on terms and conditions, and pay and contracts. Join us.