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Home > Culture and Society

Cancer: Coming Soon to a Mouth Near You

21 November 2005

We've all asked ourselves at one time or another how we'd like to die. The answer of course is that we'd like to have a massive painless heart attack whilst receiving the oral sex award for Healthiest Living Nonagenarian. But we know that's not likely. Much more likely is that we'll be slowly eaten to death in a single bed, with only Richard, Judy and our regrets for company. So, let's get realistic. Given the choice, which cancer would you prefer to die of? Most probably, you're not that bothered, just so long as it comes very late in life and is as quick and as painless as possible. But probably not mouth cancer. Which is a shame really, because mouth cancer is on its way in. In fact, as of this week, mouth cancer is the new lung cancer.

On Wednesday Cancer Research UK launched a three-year Department of Health-funded mouth cancer awareness campaign called Open Up to Mouth Cancer. Snappy. Open Up and Say Aaarggghh, to give it its full title. The thrust of the campaign is summarised by CRUK chief executive, Professor Alex Markham, thus: 'The recent rise in mouth cancer cases appears to be one of the unfortunate outcomes of excessive drinking in this country.' So there it is. Booze 'appears to be' to blame. Booze 'appears to be' the new fags.

Lung cancer was always the trump card for anti-smokers, and most people accepted, even before medicine claimed to prove it, that smoking increased its chances. Stands to reason really. Tobacco smoke is poisonous and it goes straight into your lungs. Of course it's going to give you cancer. The only surprise with the new mouth cancer campaign is firstly, that it took us so long to demonise booze in this way, and secondly, that we're not being simultaneously warned that alcohol also causes stomach cancer. Because of course it does. Especially red wine.

None of this however, is to suggest for one minute that we don't believe that alcohol actually gives you mouth cancer. We're sure it does. Especially red wine. Neither do we mean to insinuate that the government should not target 300,000 of our money to make us painfully aware of this. Of course they should. Although it seems a tad hypocritical, in light of their 24-hour Binge-drinking Bill. In actual fact, we're not suggesting anything. We're merely kicking back and revelling in the gigantic fucked-up tumour our society has become.

The facts are very simple: As a nation, we're drinking too much; and as a result, we're going to die.

You have to laugh.

According to Sara Hiom, head of health information at Cancer Research, 'Mouth cancer is on the increase and kills more people in the UK than cervical cancer and testicular cancer put together.'


The good news however, is that 'at least three-quarters of mouth cancers could be prevented by stopping smoking and reducing alcohol intake.' Meanwhile, back in the real world, the symptoms to be on the lookout for are a hypochondriac's wet dream. Basically if you have any of the following for a period of three weeks, you could be about to have your face eaten: ulcers, red or white spots, pain in the mouth, pain in the ear, a sore throat, a croaky voice, trouble swallowing and a lump in the neck. There it is.

Have a happy winter.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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