Two interesting reports out in the last week or so show encouraging news as far as mouth cancer is concerned.
We’ve known in the dental industry for a long time that dentists and dental professionals are very often the first line of defence of patients in identifying possible mouth cancers, referring them for further investigation if our suspicions warrant it. But there has always been something of a problem as far as this is concerned – or perhaps two problems.
The first and most pressing problem is that it can be very hard to tell whether a lesion in the mouth is cancerous, or could potentially become cancerous. Mouth lesions are incredibly common, yet only around 5% to 30% will ever become cancerous.
That means that we could be referring up to 95% unnecessarily, and not only does this cost the health industry a huge amount of money unnecessarily, but we can’t overlook the fact that anyone referred to a specialist by their dentist for a possible mouth cancer is going to be exceptionally worried for some time, as indeed is their family.
For that reason alone I think many people can be rather over cautious when considering whether a lesion is possibly worth further investigation or not.
The matter is perhaps made harder since an early lesion may have no cancerous cells, and will come up blank for any test of cancer, yet can still develop into a cancerous lesion later on.
The second problem we have as dental professionals is knowing exactly what advice we can give patients in terms of helping to safeguard against mouth cancer other than not smoking and maintaining a good oral hygiene routine. Well, the two reports out just recently seem to address both of these points.
The Report On Gene Testing For Pre-Cancerous Lesions
The first report comes from Queen Mary University in London, where researchers believe that they have developed a new gene test which can detect pre-cancerous cells in patients who have been diagnosed by dental professionals as having what appears to be benign mouth lesions.
This means that whereas normal tests would come up with a negative result, allowing the tumour to continue to grow and worsen, this new test allows for a much earlier treatment, significantly increasing the chance of success and the cost of any treatment.
The normal wait and see approach often means that patients who are only diagnosed once their mouth cancer has become more serious face the prospect of a very low survival rate. This new gene test offers a quicker, cheaper, simpler and accurate way of testing for mouth cancer much earlier on, reducing the anxiety and increasing the chances of success. The research has now moved on to formal clinical testing.
The Report On The Dietary Benefits In The Fight Against Mouth Cancer
The second report out this week provides evidence to suggest that the relationship between a poor diet and mouth cancer goes much deeper than we first imagined, and that eating cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, cress, bok, choy, sprouts, radishes and broccoli at least once a week can cut the risk of developing mouth cancer.
The research, published in the Annals of Oncology, reveals a huge 17% reduction in the instances of mouth cancer in those who ate such vegetables on a regular basis at least once a week, with oesophageal cancer cut by 28% and kidney cancer by 32%.
The report also notes that there is evidence to suggest that Omega 3, found in products such as fish and eggs, can also help to reduce the instances of mouth cancer, as well as high fibre foods such as rice, nuts and seeds.
It’s yet more evidence which we as dental professionals can use when offering advice to our patients on how to keep healthy and stay healthy.