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Oral cancer rates in Scotland are rising: what can dentists do?

Blog Author Pat Kilpatrick

Blog Date 01/12/2016

New stats from Cancer Research UK are highlighting the fact that oral cancer rates across the UK are soaring and we know that Scotland has a shocking problem when it comes to cancer mortality rates: Scotland has the highest compared to the rest of the UK.


The European age-standardised oral cancer incidence rates for both men and women are significantly higher in Scotland, 16.8 per 100,000 compared with 12.4 in England, and 11.9 in Northern Ireland.


We know that dentists can play a vital role in the detection of oral cancers, and evidence tells us that survival rates can rise from 50% to 90% if the conditions are detected early.


Ahead of the Parliamentary elections this year, we called on the prospective Members of the Scottish Parliament to pledge their support for our five-point plan to improve oral health in Scotland and action on oral cancer was one of our key asks.


Stats reveal that 69% of the population in Scotland attends a dentist regularly. This means that many are missing out on getting a vital check.


We have been calling for the need to raise awareness of the disease in Scotland, and to ensure that dentists can help turn the tide through prevention and diagnosis. Better public education programmes are needed and we continue to lobby MSPs on this issue.


There continues to be a shortage of dental and oral maxillofacial radiologists and oral medicine specialists and as a result there are considerable delays in treatment. This is shocking and action needs to be taken.


What can dentists do?

During November, we've been encouraging dentists to take part in Mouth Cancer Action Month, an initiative designed to raise awareness of the problem. If you've taken part, please get in touch and let us know how it went. We are keen to hear how dentists are tackling the problem on the ground in Scotland.


And don't forget to try out our oral cancer toolkit, developed in conjunction with Cancer Research UK – it's designed to help dental professionals identify, diagnosis and refer cases; it's free and there's a CPD quiz too.


Pat Kilpatrick

BDA Scotland National Director