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Home News and Update Year 2011 Oral Cancer Cases on the Rise in India

Oral Cancer Cases on the Rise in India

Times of India
31 May 2011
By Nidhi Adlakha

The number of oral cancer cases is on the rise in India. But what is mainly driving the numbers up is more people getting addicted to chewing tobacco than smoking it, says a study. India accounts for 86% of the world’s oral cancer cases, says the study conducted by the National Institute of Public Health in February 2011. Ninety percent of these cases are due to chewing tobacco, unlike in the West where smoking is the main reason.

“Cheek cancer is the most common form in India due to excessive use of pan masala and gutka,” says Dr R Swaminathan, head, department of biostatistics and cancer registry at Cancer Institute, Adyar. Though it is prevalent among the lower socio-economic groups, more women are getting into the habit of chewing tobacco, he says.

The number of tobacco users is growing in Tamil Nadu as well, says E Vidhubala, head of psycho-oncology resource centre for tobacco control at the Cancer Institute. “In north India, tobacco-chewing is prevalent among the lower-income groups, especially those who are into manual labour. With the rise in migration of labourers from Bihar and Jharkhand to Tamil Nadu, the number of users here is going up,” she says. Though there are numerous anti-smoking campaigns, there is not much awareness created about the illeffects of using pan masala, gutka and other products. “They are sold in attractive sachets and do not cost much. This encourages people to buy more of them than cigarettes,” says Dr Swaminathan.

Dr Chandragupta, chief co-ordinator, Indian Dental Association (Madras), says there is no clear-cut government policy regarding tobacco control. Authorities permit the sale of tobacco but spend huge amounts on medical aid to treat tobacco-related diseases. “Tobacco cultivation in Dindigul and Pudukottai has made the livelihood of people there dependent on the crop. Also, it is easily available,” It is a dangerous mix as tobacco not only affects the lungs but the reproductive system and blood circulation to stunt the overall growth, he says.

An analysis of oral cancer incidence from 1990 to 2005 in Chennai has noted the benefit of public health interventions, demonstrating a significant reduction in oral cancer incidence, says a paper published by Vikram Kekatpure and M Abraham Kuriakose in Cancer Prevention (2010), a newsletter.

The recent decision by the central government banning the sale of gutka in plastic sachets is a landmark judgement, says Dr Vidhubala. But it is not implemented like other laws. “Unless there is a complete ban, the impact of such decisions will be nil,” she adds.

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