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Home News and Update Year 2010 Oral CancerBlamed on Mouth Fresheners

Oral CancerBlamed on Mouth Fresheners

15 April 2010
By Soumita Majumdar
Bangalore, India

The next time you allow your child to chew on a mouth freshener, think again.

Nearly 30% of the cancer cases reported in India are those of the head and neck. And, 2–5% of these cases are that of oral cancer reported from patients in their late teens and 20s.

City doctors said they have been treating patients as young as 13 years for oral cancer. “Of late, even children are developing a pre–malignant condition of oral cancer called submucous fibrosis. This condition is peculiar to the subcontinent and is particularly seen in Karnataka and Maharashtra. We have found regular chewing of tobacco, gutkha and some mouth fresheners to be the cause,” said Dr KS Gopinath, director, HCG. He added that 10% of the cases in India were that of oral cancer and only 2% cases had no tobacco connection.

These patients do not necessarily belong to the lower economic strata. “I have seen children from well–to–do families also falling prey to the disease. I have seen cases where parents are aware of even 10–year–olds chewing on mouth fresheners or gutkha. What they don’t realise is that even small traces of tobacco when chewed regularly can result in oral cancer,” said Dr Kumaresh Krishnamurthy, senior ENT surgeon, Apollo Hospital.

Mouth tissues harden in patients with submucous fibrosis, making it difficult for them to even open their mouth. “In most such cases, the patient is put on a liquid diet and the mouth tissues are replaced with tissues from other parts of the body,” said Dr Krishnamurthy.

It was found that nearly 10,000 of the 36,000 fresh cases of cancer reported in Karnataka every year were that of oral cancer, said Dr Moni Abraham Kuriakose, chief, head and neck cancer, Narayana Hrudayalaya Cancer Hospital. “Over the last five years, oral cancer among youngsters has gone up, with six per hundred thousand population between 20 and 44 years affected,” he said.

Enumerating this, Dr Krishnamurthy said that in south India, Karnataka possibly had the highest number of cab drivers. “Some cab drivers are as young as 18 years, and the habit of chewing tobacco among them is very high. This could also be a reason for the increasing number of oral cancer cases in the state,” he said.

Dr Kuriakose added that since school–going children were also exposed to chewing tobacco and mouth fresheners, it was advisable that they underwent a check–up at least once in six months. “Any red or white patches in the mouth should be attended to immediately,” advised Dr Gopinath.

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