Cancer of the mouth arises from the mucosal lining (squamous epithelium) of the oral cavity. Smoking, alcohol consumption and betel quid chewing are the most important risk factors. Almost a quarter of the newly diagnosed cancers in men from Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are located in the head and neck region.
Alcohol-drinkers have a five times higher risk of oral cancer than people who never drink; tobacco smokers are up to six times more likely to develop oral cancer, while the interactive effect of alcohol and tobacco increases the chance of developing mouth cancer even more. In fact it is estimated that more than two thirds of mouth cancers are due to the combined effect of alcohol and tobacco use. This section reviews the symptoms of mouth cancer, as well as the latest philosophies and factors affecting choice of treatment.