By Jack Elsom For Mailonline
Published: 11:10 GMT, 1 November 2019 | Updated: 11:53 GMT, 1 November 2019
Mouth cancer rates soared in the UK last year to hit a record high, according to a charity blaming the rise on a virus which can be spread by oral sex.
While rates of most cancer types are falling, disease of the mouth has bucked the trend and has shot up by 135 per cent over the past 20 years.
Last year seven people died every day from the illness, which affected a total 8,337 patients in the UK.
The worrying findings were laid bare in a report by the Oral Health Foundation charity, which is pleading with people to wise up to the causes of the 'devastating' disease - chiefly the sexually transmitted virus HPV, alcohol and smoking.
While rates of most cancer types are falling, disease of the mouth has bucked the trend and has shot up by 135 per cent over the past 20 years (file photo)
Dr Nigel Carter OBE, chief executive of the OHF, said: 'While most cancers are on the decrease, cases of mouth cancer continue to rise at an alarming rate.
'Traditional causes like smoking and drinking alcohol to excess are quickly being caught by emerging risk factors like the human papillomavirus (HPV)...
'We have seen first-hand the devastating affect mouth cancer can have on a person's life.
'It changes how somebody speaks, it makes eating and drinking more difficult, and often changes a person's physical appearance.'
The report claims human papillomavirus (HPV) - a common group of viruses which are mainly spread through sexual activity - causes 73 per cent of oropharyngeal mouth cancers.
Mouth cancer, also known as oral cancer,