India accounts for highest oral cancer patients, say city doctors

Dr Lohit Reddy and Ashwin Rajagopal
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Dr Lohit Reddy and Ashwin Rajagopal

Highlights

A large attention is being given by the State health departments to highlight the ramifications of chewing tobacco products as doctors say oral cancer is a major problem in the Indian subcontinent

Bengaluru: A large attention is being given by the State health departments to highlight the ramifications of chewing tobacco products as doctors say oral cancer is a major problem in the Indian subcontinent.

Dr Lohit Reddy, Consultant Radiation Oncologist, Clinical lead-Radiomics and AI in cancer, HCG Cancer Hospitals, stated that oral cancer, in the Indian subcontinent is ranked among the top three cancer types.

"Age-adjusted rates of oral cancer in India is 22-25/100,000 population and accounts for over 30% of all cancers in our country," he said.

Elaborating on the causes behind the oral cancer and the role that tobacco products play behind this, Dr Lohit Reddy explained that any form of tobacco (chewing, smoking, smelling) affects oral cavity and raises risk of oral cancer.

"Tobacco smoke and its products known to consist of up to 70 carcinogens. Added alcohol to smoking doubles the risk of oral cancer. Chewing tobacco or other smokeless tobacco products, chewing betel nuts with or without added tobacco, excessive alcohol usage, poor oral hygiene with chronic ulcers (example-jagged and sharp teeth causing chronic injury and ulcers) can result in oral cancer," he elaborated.

He pointed out that 95 percent of oral cancers occur over the age of 40 years with the increasing trend now seen in patients with the range of 40-50 years.

"The average trend over the last decade is around 60 years of age," he stated.

Dr. Ashwin Rajagopal, Consultant - Surgical Oncology, Manipal Hospitals, Whitefield, stated India has the highest number of oral cancer patients in the world and attributed this to high consumption of tobacco especially chewables, which are sold in various forms like ghutka, zarda, khaini and tambakoo.

"Chewing paan containing betel leaves with areca nut, lime, catechu, cinnamon, is the leading source of oral malignancy in women. The men are more affected to the ratio of 1:5 due to additional behavioural risk factors like excessive alcohol consumption, poor oral hygiene, nutrient-deficient diet, and sustained human papillomavirus (HPV) infections. A combination of all these factors make India the leader for oral cancer with one in every third patient of oral cancer being from India," he elaborated.

Offering his insight, Rajagopal said that the highest number of cases were presented by individuals aging between 30 to 50 years "Oral cancer presents as a small, unexplained growth or sore in the mouth especially lips, cheeks, tongue or palate. The biggest issue is most of them present to us in advanced stages, either due to lack of awareness or financial problems. The late detection significantly reduces their chances of cure," he remarked.

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