Health Blogs

Oral Cancer and Tobacco

Oral cancer is the most common cancer in males in India. The rising oral cancer rates in India are among the highest in the world, and 90% of these can be attributed to tobacco which contains different kinds of carcinogens responsible for development of cancer. All forms of tobacco and nicotine either smoking or smokeless forms, are harmful.

Many studies have shown high rates of leukoplakia-white or grey patches in the mouth, tongue, cheek, floor of the mouth- at the places users place their tobacco. The longer a person uses Tambaku, Pan, Supari or smokes, the more likely they are to have leukoplakia.

Oral Cancer caused by Tobacco

Men who smoke have a 27-times higher rate of oral cancer than men who don’t. Excess use of Tambaku, Gutka and Supari can also cause the mutation of the gene p53 – which is a tumour suppressor gene. This is the reason for a spurt in submucous fibrosis and oral cancer.

 Tobacco- related cancers represent 42 %( 84000) of male and 18.3 %( 35700) of female cancer deaths. These deaths are twice than that related to lung cancer.

Cancer death in India is two times higher in the lesser educated population than the educated adults. This highlights that there is more need for awareness in rural areas.

The Initial signs and symptoms of oral cancer include:

  • White or red patches
  • Decreased mouth opening
  • Ulcer or growth that persists for more than 2 weeks
  • Difficulty in chewing and swallowing
  • Loose teeth
  • Ill-fitting dentures, etc.

Oral cavity is easily visible from naked eyes and this aspect can be utilized for screening and early detection when treatment results are excellent.

Screening also includes self-examination of all areas of oral cavity at least once a month especially who use tobacco. In case of white or red patches or other signs or symptoms, patients should be consult a specialist to detect cancer in the early stage. In case of any suspicion, biopsy should be done to confirm diagnosis. Treatment includes surgery and post op radiation or chemo radiation.

Our main focus should be on spreading knowledge about ill effects of tobacco use. There’s no proof that smokeless tobacco products can actually help smokers quit. But there are proven treatments for tobacco addiction, such as

  • Nicotine replacement products
  • FDA-approved method of quitting, like the nicotine patch or gum
  • Prescription drugs and
  • Behavioral therapies.

Remember that this cancer is a life style disorder and the way to prevent is through self discipline, control and awareness.