Dentist’s warning after healthy dad-of-seven who didn’t drink or smoke dies aged 37

A dentist has warned that thousands of Brits may be unknowingly living with mouth cancer after a “healthy” dad-of-seven died from the disease.

Alan Birch, 37, lived a healthy, active lifestyle and did not drink or smoke but died from an aggressive form of mouth cancer in April.

The self-employed plasterer, from Wirral in Merseyside, was diagnosed with mouth cancer in 2018, and had to have 90 per cent of his tongue removed, Liverpool Echo reports.

Despite Alan undergoing both radiotherapy and chemotherapy, the cancer returned each time and specialists told his devastated family there was nothing more they could do for him.

Alan and his partner of 12 years, Debbie McDonough, decided to get married in February, but he tragically died a few weeks later in April.

Dad-of-seven Alan Birch died of mouth cancer in April

Alan lived a healthy, active lifestyle and did not drink or smoke

With the latest figures from the British Dental Association showing that 19 million treatments have been missed due to lockdown, dentists are now concerned about the number of cases of mouth cancer that will have potentially gone undiagnosed this year as a result.

Mouth cancer takes more lives than cervical cancer and testicular cancer combined, with 8,722 new cases reported in the UK last year. This is a 58 per cent increase compared to a decade ago and a 97 per cent rise since 2000.

Debbie said: “I would urge people to always keep on top of their dentist appointments as they are the ones who notice the warning signs for mouth and tongue cancer.

“Always be careful of ulcers especially if you have them longer than two weeks, and never think you are wasting an appointment if you are worried about anything. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Alan had 90 per cent of his tongue removed when he was diagnosed with mouth cancer in 2018

New research revealed that 52 per cent of people living in the North-West are unaware their dentist will screen them for mouth cancer during a routine check-up.

Dr Catherine Tannahill, dentist and director of clinical dentistry at Portman Dental Care, which carried out the research, said: “As dentists we see first-hand the impact this disease can have, and that’s why we want to ensure people are aware of what the signs and symptoms are, what to do if they spot an issue and what steps they can take to reduce the risk of developing mouth cancer.

“This is now more important than ever before, as thousands of diagnoses may have potentially been missed this year due to dental practices having to close in initial lockdown, and the subsequent backlog of appointments since.

“While this may sound alarming, early diagnosis of mouth cancer leads to a 90 per cent survival rate, which is why it is imperative that people continue visiting their dentist for regular check-ups.

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Wildfire smoke may help virus spread, mouthwash helps curb it

By Nancy Lapid

(Reuters) – The following is a roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

Wildfire smoke likely helped to spread COVID-19

Large wildfires may be linked to increases in COVID-19 cases and deaths in the San Francisco area, according to a paper in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences. Researchers found that between March and September, increases in smoke particles, other wildfire pollutants and carbon monoxide levels corresponded to increases in daily COVID-19 diagnoses and total COVID-19 deaths. While correlation does not necessarily mean causality, coauthor Sultan Ayoub Meo of King Saud University in Saudi Arabia said air pollution provides a means for viruses to move around the environment. These tiny pollution particles, along with the microorganisms they carry, “can easily be inhaled deep into the lungs and cause infections,” Meo said. “Carbon monoxide is a highly toxic gas which can damage our lungs, resulting as a triggering factor for an increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths in the wildfire region,” he told Reuters. (

Antiviral mouthwash could help curb coronavirus transmission

Mouthwashes with antiviral ingredients could help decrease COVID-19 transmission by reducing viral loads in the mouths of infected patients when they cough, sneeze or speak, according to a paper in the Journal of Dental Research published on Thursday. Studies have found that rinses containing cetylpyridinium chloride or povidone-iodine can reduce the oral coronavirus load; other promising compounds include hydrogen peroxide, chlorhexidine, cyclodextrin, Citrox, and certain essential oils. Coauthor Dr. Florence Carrouel of University Claude Bernard Lyon in France told Reuters everyone should be using these mouthwashes because people can be infected and not realize it. While more studies are needed to determine appropriate regimens, she suggests using three doses of antiviral mouthwash the day before a meeting, and one dose the morning of the event. COVID-19 patients should be using mouthwash regularly for seven to 10 days. (

Common-cold antibodies may hijack body’s COVID-19 response

A phenomenon called “antigenic sin” may explain why some COVID-19 patients become critically ill, researchers say. Because the new virus shares some features with coronaviruses that cause common colds, the body’s immune response can include antibodies that previously learned to recognize and attack those older viruses. This can in turn detract from the body’s ability to fight COVID-19, because the common cold antibodies do not reliably attack the new virus. In severely ill COVID-19 patients, the immune response directed at other coronaviruses is higher than in mildly ill patients, researchers reported on medRxiv ahead of peer review. This situation – when the body reacts to a new invader based on its “memory” of previous invaders – has been seen before and is called “original antigenic sin.” New vaccines must be able to prompt an immune response against this new virus, not merely boost immune responses toward common cold viruses, said coauthor Gijsbert van Nierop of Erasmus Medical

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Spiraling healthcare costs of wildfire smoke in California

The annual cost of smoke-related hospitalizations in the state may have quadrupled between 2012 and 2018, according to new research. The costs of this year’s wildfires are likely to be even higher.

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, since the start of 2020, there have been more than 8,500 wildfires across the state, incinerating more than 4.1 million acres of land.

At the time of writing, 6 of the 20 largest wildfires in the state’s history have occurred in 2020, including the largest on record, known as the August Complex, which has been burning since the middle of August.

Wildfires release large amounts of particulate matter (PM) and toxic gases, such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides.

Smoke particles that are 2.5 microns or smaller in size, known as PM2.5, are carried long distances by the wind. Their small size means that they are breathed deep into the lungs, where they have a wide range of effects on human health.

In addition to the severe harms to health and well-being, there are also financial costs.

Daniel Cullen, who recently gained his Ph.D. in health economics from the University of California Santa Barbara, has estimated the annual healthcare costs of wildfires in the state between 2012 and 2018 in terms of hospitalizations for respiratory and circulatory illnesses.

As part of research for his doctoral thesis, he calculated that the cost may have increased as much as fourfold over this period, from around $88 million in 2012 to $348 million in 2018.

This year is likely to be the worst on record, says Cullen, but given how extraordinary the 2020 wildfire season has been thus far, it is difficult to predict exactly how bad it will be. “When a big county like San Francisco is covered in smoke for 2 months, it is hard to say what is going to be the effect,” he says.

Cullen believes the costs of smoke exposure will continue to rise in coming decades as climate change increases the size, frequency, and intensity of wildfires.

“These healthcare costs need to be accounted for when we are thinking about the costs of climate change,” he says.

Cullen used data from California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development regarding hospital admissions for respiratory and circulatory illnesses between 2012 and 2018.

To investigate possible relationships with smoke exposure, he correlated these admissions with satellite data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hazard Mapping System Fire and Smoke Product. This tracks wildfire smoke plumes across the United States.

To account for other variables that could affect admissions, Cullen compared each county with itself for the same month in different years. This allowed him to calculate the increased number of admissions that were directly caused by wildfire smoke.

“Using this year to year variation in whether a specific area was exposed to wildfire smoke at a specific point in time, I am able to identify the causal impact of wildfire smoke exposure,” he writes.

He estimates

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