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Last Updated: Monday, 8 November, 2004, 07:46 GMT
Warning over mouth cancer
woman smoking
Smokers are at greater risk of developing mouth cancer
The growing threat of mouth cancer could be reversed if people were more aware of its symptoms, dentists claim.

In Northern Ireland there are about 50 deaths each year from cancer of the mouth, tongue and lips.

People most at risk are those over the age of 40, heavy smokers or drinkers and people who chew tobacco.

Those who drink and smoke at the same time are more than 30 times as likely to develop mouth cancer than other people, health officals say.

First symptoms

Will Maxwell, director of dental services with the Eastern Health and Social Services Board, said the increasing rate of mouth cancer could be reversed by early and effective treatment.

He said: "We know that early detection and treatment can increase a patient's chances of survival from 50% to about 90%.

"That means we must educate people about the risks and symptoms and urge them to get a regular check-up at their dentist."

The first symptoms of mouth cancer can include red or white patches in the mouth, or ulcers that do not clear after more than two weeks.

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