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​BDA welcomes initiative by MSPs to become mouth cancer aware

10 November 2017 


Holyrood is waking up to the threat of oral cancer, as MSPs prepare to tackle a condition that kills more people than road traffic accidents.

Dentist leaders have greeted the news that 26 MSPs have now signed a motion this Mouth Cancer Action Month.

More Members are expected to sign the motion raised by Conservative MSP Adam Tomkins, who praised British Dental Association Scotland and the Oral Health Foundation for their work on raising awareness of oral cancer because knowledge of the condition is worryingly low.  


The motion highlights that Scotland has almost double the incidence of mouth cancer than England, and people from deprived areas are up to three times more likely to be affected. It emphasises that 90% of cases are preventable, and identifies the main risk factors as being tobacco, alcohol consumption and being infected with human papilloma virus (HPV).


The BDA urges all dental professionals to contact their MSP to sign the motion, because this will increase the prospect of oral cancer being debated on the floor of Scottish Parliament in the New Year.


BDA Scotland is working with the Oral Health Foundation to promote the important role that dental professionals play in diagnosing mouth (oral) and throat (oropharyngeal) cancers. They can do this by:


  • raising public awareness by taking part in the Mouth Cancer Action Month;
  • screening for oral and oropharyngeal cancer during routine oral examinations of registered patients, and discussing risk factors;
  • providing rapid access to an oral examination for patients who have suspected lesions found by GPs and pharmacists of non-registered patients by local agreement; and
  • referring suspected lesions to the local oral maxillofacial (OMF) unit, or equivalent, for investigation.

The BDA's working group on oral cancers, chaired by Dr David Cross, has produced a resource pack for dentists and dental care professionals; this includes advice on how to carry out an examination of the mouth, oropharynx and neck for cancer, what lesions to refer, and an up-to-date guide on how to access OMFS services.

The vice chair of the BDA's Scottish Council, David Cross, said:

"It's great that MSPs are rallying to our call that much more needs to be done to raise awareness of this most debilitating condition.  

"They will be doing a great service if they can help drive home the message that even if you don't have any teeth left you can still get mouth cancer.

"People also need to know the signs and symptoms for mouth cancer that you shouldn't ignore because an early diagnosis can improve a patient's chances of survival from 50% to 90%.

"That's why the BDA wants every dentist and DCP to ask their own MSP to sign this motion. Greater awareness of this condition will save the NHS money and prevent unnecessary distress to patients."