Oral cancer spreads its grip on India, tobacco among the biggest risks

“In the last 6 years, its incidence has increased by about 114%”

New Delhi, November 17, 2018:

The number of cancer cases in India has gone up in the last six years by 15.7% according to the Indian Council of Medical Research’s National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research. This year alone, about 11.5 lakh cancer cases were reported across the country, as against 10 lakh in 2012. Cancers of the lip and oral cavity, in particular, increased by a whopping 114% in the six-year period.

Oral cancer is cancer that develops in any part of the mouth, including the lips, tongue, cheeks, sinuses, pharynx, hard and soft palate, etc. Tobacco use is one of the biggest risk factors for oral cancer. These include cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, as well as snuff. People who consume large amounts of alcohol also have a higher risk of neck and head cancer.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “Use of tobacco can cause oral precancerous lesions such as oral submucous fibrosis, which can put the user at risk of developing oral cancer. Apart from this it can also predispose the user to other infections in the mouth. In India, the use of smokeless tobacco (SLT) remains the dominant cause of tobacco-attributable diseases, including cancer of the oral cavity (mouth), esophagus (food pipe) and pancreas. SLT not only causes adverse health effects but also accounts for a huge economic burden.”

Some other risk factors for oral cancer include a weakened immune system, a family history of oral or other types of cancer, being male, human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, prolonged sun exposure, age, poor oral hygiene, poor diet or nutrition, etc.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor-in-Chief of IJCP, said, “Use of SLT mixed with areca nut is a common practice in India and as stated in the beginning, betel quid and gutka, the two most commonly used forms of SLT have areca nut as a common ingredient. Areca nut itself is classified as a class one carcinogenic, that is, having cancer-causing properties, besides other adverse health effects.”

Some tips from HCFI

  • Do not use tobacco. If you are a user, take immediate steps to quit.
  • Consume alcohol in moderation
  • Avoid prolonged exposure to the sun – use lip balms with SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Eat a healthy diet, including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, while avoiding or limiting the intake of junk and processed food.
  • Try short-acting nicotine replacement therapy as things such as lozenges, nicotine gums, etc.
  • Identify the trigger situation, which makes you smoke. Have a plan in place to avoid these or get through them alternatively.
  • Chew on sugarless gum or hard candy, or munch raw carrots, celery, nuts or sunflower seeds instead of tobacco.
  • Get physically active. Short bursts of physical activity such as running up and down the stairs a few times can make a tobacco craving go away.

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