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Experts warn morning breath could be a red flag sign of killer cancer

When waking up in the morning it’s pretty much impossible to have perfect, fresh breath. Morning breath is a common problem that affects many of us.

Aside from poor oral hygiene, the most typical cause of this is having a dry mouth overnight. Eating a particularly pungent meal before bed time could also be to blame.

However, there can be a more sinister cause, health bodies have warned. Bad breath – or halitosis – is a lesser known sign of a killer disease.

According to the NHS and Cancer Research UK, bad breath is a symptom of laryngeal cancer, a disease that affects the larynx, which is better known as the voice box.

The NHS explains: “The larynx is part of the throat found at the entrance of the windpipe (trachea). It plays an important role in helping you breathe and speak.”

In a post on the NHS official website, it says: “In the UK, there are more than 2,000 new cases of laryngeal cancer each year.

“The condition is more common in people over the age of 60. It’s more common in men than women.”

Bad breath is listed by the NHS as a potential symptom of laryngeal cancer.According to University of California San Francisco Health, this sign is more likely to occur in later stages.

“As the tumour grows, it may cause pain, weight loss, bad breath, and choking on food.

And Doctor Vishal Gupta, a specialist in head and neck surgery and assistant professor of oncology and otolaryngology, explained that it is not exactly known why this cancer is linked to bad breath.

But he told the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Centre: “It is not exactly clear but it is likely related to a concentration of high polyamines in cancer cells.”

If you start experiencing more severe bad breath you should make lifestyle changes such as regularly brushing your teeth and flossing, and getting proper hydration, he advised.

However, Dr Gupta said if it persists after this you should speak to a dentist or doctor as it could signal something more serious.

The NHS says that the main symptom of laryngeal cancer is having a hoarse voice for more than three weeks.

Other symptoms include:

  • A change in your voice, such as sounding hoarse
  • Pain when swallowing or difficulty swallowing
  • A lump or swelling in your neck
  • A long-lasting cough or breathlessness
  • A persistent sore throat or earache
  • A high-pitched wheezing noise when you breathe
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Fatigue (extreme tiredness).

The NHS adds: “You should see a GP if you have had a hoarse voice for more than three weeks.

“These symptoms are often caused by less serious conditions, such as laryngitis, but it’s a good idea to get them checked out. If necessary, your GP can refer you to a hospital specialist for further tests to confirm or rule out cancer.”

It is not exactly known what causes laryngeal cancer but the following things can increase your risk:

  • Smoking tobacco
  • Regularly drinking large amounts of alcohol
  • Having family members (such as a parent, brother, sister or child) who have had laryngeal cancer
  • Having an unhealthy diet low in fruit and vegetables
  • Exposure to certain chemicals and substances, such as asbestos and coal dust.


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