GUWAHATI, July 26: India has the dubious distinction of having largest amount of chewing tobacco consumption in the world. It is a cheap and easily available addiction and its growing consumption in the last two decades has contributed to alarming rise in oral cancer.
Every year nearly 10 lakh people in India are diagnosed with oral cancer and half of them die within a year of diagnosis. The main cause of the deaths and disabilities due to oral cancer is known in medical term as Head Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (HNSCC). As per GATS -2 (2017) survey, almost 96 per cent of the youth of India agree on the fact that chewable tobacco is the major reason for serious diseases (cancer).
The World Head & Neck Cancer Day (WHNCD) is observed on July 27 this year. Government of India has taken a landmark decisions such as Gutka ban, flavoured, packaged chewing tobacco. In fact, as per the Supreme Court’s order on September 23, 2016 smokeless tobacco products were banned in India. Implementation in India remains a big challenge.
Dr. Amal Katki, patron of the Voice of Tobacco Victims (VOTV) and Director B Borooah Cancer Institute, said that according to GATS – 2, 19.9 crore people (age 15+) use chewing tobacco products. Due to the 85 per cent pictorial pack warnings on chewing tobacco products, 46.7 per cent people have thought about quitting these.
According to Dr. Katki, a large number of people across India fall prey to oral cancer owing to a combition of factors including late detection of the decease, idequate treatment and unsuitable rehabilitation. “People mainly in the age group of 60-70 years used to be prone to oral and throat cancer till as late as 30 years age. Now people as young as 30 to 40 years are being diagnosed for oral cancer,” he said. Blaming growing influence of western life style in the young generation, Dr. Katki says, even youth in the 20-25 years age group have become vulnerable to oral cancer due to smoking, which many of them mistakenly consider a style statement.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in a report in 2008 observed that in 90 per cent of the head and neck cancer cases that were diagnosed consumption of alcohol, Gutka, tobacco and betel nut emerged as the root cause of the cancer which is preventable. The ICMR report also revealed that tobacco consumption was diagnosed as reason of cancer among 50 per cent male and 25 per cent female victims. Nearly 90 per cent of these victims (male and female) suffered due to oral cancer. The report pointed out that smokeless tobacco products such as chewing tobacco, Khaini, Gutka contain 3,000 chemical compounds and 29 of them could be potential cause for oral cancer. India has the largest population of oral cancer patients in the world, making it the oral cancer capital of the world.
According to Dr. Katki, head and neck cancer cases are proving an additiol burden on not only the tiol healthcare services but also on the affected communities, families and individuals. Tata Memorial Hospital, Professor and Cancer Surgeon Dr. Pankaj Chaturvedi, who is heading campaign against head and neck cancer globally, stresses the need for multi-pronged and coordited efforts by governments, voluntary organizations, health workers, educatiol institutes and industries to check cases of Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (HNSCC).