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Cancer charity issues warning over alcohol link

LONDON (Reuters) - Mouth cancer linked to smoking and drinking now kills more people in the UK than cervical and testicular cancer together, experts said on Wednesday.

Cancer Research UK has launched a three-year campaign to raise awareness of the little-known link between alcohol and the disease.

It says some 4,400 people are diagnosed with mouth cancer each year in the UK and around 1,600 people die from it.

Smoking and drinking are together estimated to cause more than 75 percent of mouth cancer cases in developed countries, the charity said.

"The good news is that the disease is largely preventable," Sara Hiom, Head of Health Information at Cancer Research UK said in a statement.

"At least three quarters of mouth cancers could be prevented by stopping smoking and reducing alcohol intake. Evidence shows that early detection of mouth cancer can significantly improve the chances of successful treatment."

Cases of the disease have risen by a quarter over the past 10 years -- from 3,411 cases in 1992 to 4,285 in 2001.

"It's very worrying that people aren't aware that alcohol is a major cause of mouth cancer," Professor Alex Markham, Cancer Research UK's chief executive, said.

"Alcohol consumption in Britain is rising rapidly. The recent rise in mouth cancer cases appears to be one of the unfortunate outcomes of excessive drinking in this country."

The campaign, with funding from the department of health, will target those most a risk such as heavy drinkers, heavy smokers and people who chew tobacco.

The most common signs of mouth cancer are sores, ulcers, red or white patches and unexplained pain in the mouth or ear. Less common signs include a lump in the neck, a persistent sore throat or difficulty swallowing.

New laws which will allow pubs to stay open for longer will come into effect on November 24. The Home Office launched its biggest ever crackdown on binge drinking on Tuesday.

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