Oral cancers have risen dramatically in the last decade partly due to a rise in alcohol consumption, according to Cancer Research UK.
Researchers looked at diagnoses of cancer of the mouth, tongue, lip and throat in people in their 40s and found an increase of 28 per cent for men and 24 per cent for women since the mid-1990s.
Hazel Nunn, the charity’s health information manager, said: “Around three quarters of oral cancers are thought to be caused by smoking and drinking alcohol.”
Tobacco is a major risk factor in oral cancers, but Hazel Nunn said: “For people in their 40s, it seems that other factors are also contributing to this jump in oral cancer rates.”
She added: “Alcohol consumption has doubled since the 1950s and the trend we are now seeing is likely to be linked to Britain’s continually rising drinking levels”.
Anti-alcohol pressure groups have called for tobacco-style warnings on cans and bottles of booze.
Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: “These figures demonstrate once again that people are being struck down at ever younger ages with alcohol-related illnesses.”
He continued: “There is an urgent need to rethink how we communicate the risks of misuse. The most logical way of getting this across would be through standard warning labels as they do with tobacco products.”
Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said: “Many people are not aware of the connection between alcohol and cancer, yet as this research shows, it can be a major contributor or cause of the disease.”
He added: “While alcoholic liver disease remains the number one killer linked to alcohol, more and more people are suffering from oral cancers – and record drinking levels have undeniably played a part.”
Each year about 5,000 people are diagnosed with oral cancer and around 1,800 die from the illness.
The cancers can be treated successfully if caught early and warning signs include ulcers, sores, red or white patches in the mouth lasting more than three weeks and unexplained mouth or ear pain.