Rise in oral cancer cases due to tobacco use, doctors say

Oral cancer cases are increasing at an alarming rate in the country. Tobacco use including smokeless tobacco, betel chewing, excessive alcohol consumption and unhygienic oral conditions are some of the risks for a higher incidence of oral cancer. Early detection is important to reduce the mortality rate of patients with oral cancer. Regular dental checkups and quitting the tobacco will help in rapid diagnosis and prompt treatment, doctors say following World No Tobacco Day which is celebrated annually on May 31.

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What is oral cancer?

Oral cancer is an abnormal growth of tissue in the mouth that turns into cancer. It can spread from mouth to nose, neck and other parts of the body. At first, the signs may be white or red patches in the mouth, sores on the tongue, lips or mouth, bleeding in the mouth, swelling in the mouth area and difficulty swallowing. It is a significant health issue in India as it is one of the most common types of cancer affecting a large population, said Dr. Suhas Aagre, oncologist and hemato-oncologist at the Asian Cancer Institute.

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Risk factors

Tobacco use has been the predominant factor causing oral cancer. The use of tobacco in various forms such as gutka, zarda, mawa, kharra, khaini, cigarettes, bidi and hookah is a major cause of the development of tumors in the oral cavity in young people and adults. Dr Aagre mentioned: “Oral cancer is one of many types of cancers that fall under the category of head and neck cancers. Tobacco is the leading cause of oral cancer in all age groups. All tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco and snuff, contain toxic substances (toxins), carcinogens (carcinogens) and nicotine, a substance addictive. There are at least 70 dangerous chemicals found in cigarettes and other forms of tobacco products, exposure to these chemicals will lead to oral cancer.

Quitting smoking is important for everyone (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

Despite widespread knowledge of the risk of tobacco exposure and consumption, it is responsible for a plethora of diseases, an alarming mortality rate, an economic burden and a reduced quality of life,” said Dr. Adwait Gore, Medical Oncologist, Zen Multi Specialty Hospital, Chembur.


Chewing the tobacco, and keeping it in the mouth for a long time may lead to a higher risk. If you have been using tobacco for a long time and you notice symptoms such as pain in your mouth, sores on your lips or inability to swallow, ulcers that do not heal, bleeding from an ulcer, development of a swelling of the neck, a change in voice, difficulty swallowing, consult a doctor immediately and have the necessary health checks carried out. Other risk factors for oral cancer are poor oral hygiene, dental irritation, human papillomavirus infection, diabetes, and heavy use of immunosuppressive drugs. “Cases are not only increasing in rural areas, but also in urban areas. Nowadays, there is a shocking trend that young people in the age group of 20 to 30 years are being affected by oral cancer,” Dr. Aagre noted.

Dr. Khozema Fatehi, Head and Neck, Oral Oncosurgeon, SRV Hospital, Chembur pointed out that India bears a huge burden of oral cancer cases as tobacco use is directly associated with around 80% of oral cancers. the mouth in both men and women. “Young people are increasingly using smokeless tobacco due to imitation and/or peer pressure. The lack of sensitization on the early symptoms of oral cancer is the main reason why the cancer is detected at later stages. Early detection improves chances of survival,” said Dr Fatehi.


Treatment for oral cancer includes surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.


Oral cancer itself is preventable. Stop smoking and other steps can provide cancer prevention.

“To ward off oral cancer, you will have to quit smoking. Avoid smoking by opting for smoking cessation therapy, get enough rest, and eat a balanced diet that includes fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and legumes. Cut down on spicy, junk, fatty, and processed foods, seek support and encouragement from family and friends, and don’t miss your regular dental checkups and regular follow-ups,” Dr. Aagre concluded.

“Most people with mouth cancer have a history of smoking or exposure to tobacco, such as chewing tobacco. Snuff products (snuff, dip, spit, chew, or soluble) are associated with cancers of the cheek, gums, floor of the mouth (under the tongue), and inner surface of the lips. A large number of people chew gutka, which is a mixture of betel quid and tobacco, and are prone to oral cancer.

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