Monday, March 15th, 2010

Chewing Tobacco Causes Cancer

no_tobacco“My father chewed tobacco, the leafy kind with limejuice. Now he drinks his food with a straw because oral cancer has wrecked his mouth”, says Arpana Sarin about her 58-year-old dad. According to World Health Organization (WHO) profiles, India has one of the highest rates of oral cancer in the world and rates are still increasing. This disproportionate incidence of oral cancer has been related to the high proportion of tobacco chewers, a habit unique to Indians. “Smokeless or “spit” tobacco contains over 2,000 chemicals, many of which have been directly related to causing cancer. These include nitrosamines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and radiation-emitting polonium”, informs Dr. Indu Bansal, senior oncologist with Paras Hospital, Gurgaon

Goes without saying that the ingredient in tobacco that gives high is nicotine. And nicotine is highly addictive. A long time smoker Alok Sinha, who is a senior executive with a UK based multinational says, “For my nicotine high I keep switching between cigarettes and gutkhas. Gutkhas are handy; you can chew them inside the plane, in a train, in a movie hall and all the places where smoking is not allowed.” So much for no smoking zones!
“The amount of nicotine absorbed from smokeless tobacco is 3 to 4 times the amount delivered by a cigarette. Nicotine is absorbed more slowly from smokeless tobacco than from cigarettes, but more nicotine per dose is absorbed from it as compared to cigarettes”, says Dr. Bansal.

The practice of tobacco chewing leaves irritating juices in the contact with gums, cheeks and/or lips for prolonged periods of time. This can result in a condition called leukoplakia. Leukoplakia appears either as a smooth, white patch or as leathery-looking wrinkled skin.

The use of pan masala is hazardous to heath. Studies have pointed out various ill effects of pan masala. Pan masala is a powdery mixture of betel nut, lime and arecanut (supari) in various proportions. Studies have established that pan contains agents, which can change normal tissues into cancer tissues, and can cause a progressive disease called, “Sub Mucous Fibrosis” (SMF).
The SMF is a permanent thickening and hardening of the inner lining of the mouths, which prevents the victim from opening his/her mouth.

“If you chew on tobacco beware of these symptoms”, warns Dr. Bansal.

Warning bells


  • Sore that does not heal
  • Lump or white patch
  • Prolonged sore throat
  • Difficulty in chewing
  • Restricted movement of the tongue or jaws 
  •  A feeling of something in the throat

Pain is rarely an early symptom. For this reason, all tobacco users need regular dental check-ups.

Archana Darshan

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Category: Defeat Cancer / Men
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