30% of people with mouth cancer drink excessively. Excessive drinking means more than 21 units of alcohol per week. That’s about 7 large glasses of wine or 11 cans of medium-strength lager.

Alcohol works in the following ways:

Dries out the skin of the mouth and makes it more porous.
It is broken down by bacteria in the mouth to make cancer-causing chemicals.
Breaks down within the body to produce chemicals which are poisonous to cells and damage their DNA.
Many people who drink large amounts of alcohol neglect to eat properly. Poor diet is also a risk factor for mouth cancer.

Alcohol and Tobacco Together

Drinking alcohol and smoking at the same time increases the risk of mouth cancer about 30 times. This is because:

Alcohol affects the skin of the mouth allowing tobacco toxins to pass through more easily.
Tobacco smoke contains formaldehyde, a poisonous chemical similar to acetaldehyde produced by the breakdown of alcohol.

These two chemicals together can overwhelm the body’s defence mechanisms.

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