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Published on Saturday, 19 January 2013 00:29
Most oral cancer patients in Myanmar are betel chewers, according to a study released at the 41th seminar of Myanmar Health and Research in Yangon earlier this month.
The often fatal disease affects men more than women and most patients are between 45 and 65 years old, the study of 120 oral cancer patients found.
Betel chewers who did not smoke tobacco comprised about 28 percent of the total, while patients who chewed betel and smoked comprised 17.5 percent. Smokers who did not chew betel accounted for almost 16 percent, the study found.
Betel quid is a mix of substances, usually areca nut, tobacco and a lime-like calcium carbonate or calcium hydroxide, the study said, adding that the areca nut is the most carcinogenic ingredient.
Myanmar has among the top five prevalence rates for oral cancer in the 11 member Association of Southeast Asian Nations and tops the list in betel and cigarette consumption, according to the World Health Organisation.
Dr. Nyo Nyo Kyaing, an advisor to the WHO on a project to make the region tobacco-free, said that when the smokers want to quit by substituting chewing betel instead of cigarettes they often become addicted to both.
According to the WHO, there are six countries in the region where people chew betel with Myanmar being the largest market, consuming slightly more than half of the region’s total amount.
Ba Oke Khaing, the chairperson of the community-based consumer protecting association, toxic betel quid was being illegally imported from India. The most popular betel quid brands in Myanmar – Queen, Star, Signal and 100 – are imported from India. Ba Oke Khaing said they contained poisonous ingredients.