Why are cases of oral cancer rising in India?

16 April,2024 03:21 PM IST |  New Delhi  |  IANS

Also known as mouth cancer, oral cancer is the most common form of head and neck cancer and includes cancers of the mouth and the back of the throat

Image for representational purposes only. Photo Courtesy: iStock

India bears a significant burden of oral cancers, and the country contributes to about 30 per cent of all global cases, said doctors on Tuesday.

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Also known as mouth cancer, the disease is the most common form of head and neck cancer and includes cancers of the mouth and the back of the throat.

Traditionally known to affect older adults, the disease is seeing an early onset, Dr Sowrabh Arora, Senior Director - Surgical Oncology (Head & Neck), Max Hospital, Vaishali, told IANS.

"Oral cancer is a significant health concern in India, ranking as the second most common cancer overall and the most common among males.

Annually, there are over 100,000 new cases diagnosed. One emerging trend is the increasing incidence of oral cancer among young adults," he said.

"Alarmingly, the incidence of oral cancer is on the rise, with approximately 70 per cent of cases diagnosed at an advanced stage, complicating treatment efforts," added Dr Mohit Saxena, Senior Consultant - Medical Oncology, Marengo Asia Hospital, Gurugram.

The doctors attributed the rise to the use of tobacco, chewing betel nuts, or smoke, accounting for 80-90 per cent of cases.

Other contributing factors include excessive alcohol consumption, human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, weakened immune system, poor nutrition, excess body weight, and excessive sun exposure.

"This highlights the pressing need for awareness campaigns and preventive measures to curb the rising prevalence of oral cancer, particularly among the younger population, and to address the root causes," Dr. Sowrabh said.

The doctors also advised to be vigilant of symptoms to help in crucial early detection and better outcomes.

"Recognising the symptoms of oral cancer is crucial for early detection and intervention. These include persistent mouth ulcers, red or white patches, intraoral swelling or lumps, difficulty in swallowing, hoarseness of voice, neck or throat swelling, and unexplained weight loss," Dr Mohit told IANS.

He also called for prevention strategies such as abstaining from tobacco, and alcohol, practising safe sex to minimise HPV exposure, using sunscreen to protect against sun damage, and undergoing regular oral screenings for early detection.

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