Cases of mouth cancer in the UK have increased by more than 1,000 in just a year, according to statistics released by the British Dental Health Foundation.
The figures show that since 2000 cases of mouth cancer have increased by 50%, with almost double the number of men developing the disease compared to women.
Almost 2,500 people died from mouth cancer in 2011, and there were more than 6,000 new cases in England alone.
Tobacco use, drinking alcohol to excess, poor diet and the human papillomavirus (HPV), often transmitted via oral sex, increase the chances of developing mouth cancer.
Dr Nigel Carter OBE, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, said he was worried by the new figures.
He said: “There is a clear gap in public knowledge about what causes mouth cancer that needs to be plugged. Smoking and drinking to excess increase your chances of getting mouth cancer by 30 times as much, yet so many social smokers often light up while having a drink. "Of greater concern is the rise of the human papillomavirus. It is forecast to overtake smoking as the leading cause of the disease in the next ten years. Poor diet has been linked to half of cases in the UK.
“All of these factors make early diagnosis so important. If it is caught early, your chances of surviving mouth cancer are 90%. If it is caught late, which unfortunately many cases are, then you have a 50/50 chance of living.”