Oral cancer in now the 10th most common cancer in men as overall the incidence of the disease has risen by a third in the last decade, show new figures from Cancer Research UK.

In the last 10 years, cases of oral cancer have climbed from around 4,500 back in 2002 to 7,300 in 2012, which equates to an incidence of 9 per 100,000 people to 12 per 100,000, respectively, the charity said.

Twice as many men (4,900) than women (2,400) are diagnosed with the disease, and twice as many  - 1,500 versus 770 - die from it, which experts say is largely because of the higher smoking rate in males. 

Around 90% of oral cancer cases in the UK are linked to major lifestyle and other risk factors, with an estimated 65% in the UK linked to tobacco smoking. But the human papilloma virus (HPV), drinking alcohol and having a diet low in fruit and vegetables are also risk factors.

“It’s a real concern that oral cancer cases continue to climb and has now broken into the top ten most common cancers in men, especially as the majority of cases are preventable,” said Richard Shaw, a head and neck surgeon based at the University of Liverpool. “The combination of tobacco, drinking alcohol and HPV provides a toxic cocktail that has led to this rising tide of cancers, so it’s vital that people are aware of how to reduce their risk”.

The vast majority of cases can be prevented, so the charity has now launched a toolkit to help dentists and GPs recognise the early signs of the disease.