Invaded Mouth

September 2020 – February 2021

This installation intended to spread awareness of mouth cancer and to show some of the research carried out at the Birmingham Dental School, aiming to improve our understanding of cancer development in the mouth.

Mouth cancer, also called oral cancer, or head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, is the 6th most common cancer in the world. It can develop following an assault on the mouth caused by repeated use of tobacco (either smoked or chewed) and alcohol but also exposure to sun or human papillomavirus (HPV). They are all risk factors for oral cancer and can change the behaviour of the cells that normally form the mouth lining – epithelial cells. These risk factors can cause mutations in the DNA of the epithelial cells and change the way the genes are controlled. This makes the cells divide aggressively and invade surrounding tissues: a tumour growth occurs.

A patient may notice persistent mouth ulcer or discoloration, a painless lump, persistent hoarseness or numbness, persistent sore throat, difficulty in swallowing, speaking or chewing, persistent earache, especially on one side.

Scientists at the University of Birmingham, including Malgorzata Wiench and Gabriel Landini (both from the Birmingham Dental School) try to understand how the mouth epithelial cells change when tumour growth develops and how this process is regulated in the cell’s nucleus (a place of DNA storage and utilization). The aim is to direct new detection methods and new therapies for oral cancer.

If you have any concerns about your own oral health please talk with your dentist. More information can be found at the Mouth Cancer Foundation (UK) And the Oral Cancer Foundation (USA)

Mouth cancer awareness month is in November