A million of this country's 250 million tobacco users die annually. “India, which is the third largest producer and consumer of tobacco after China and the US, has the dubious distinction of having the highest number of tobacco-linked oral cancer victims in the world,'' Indian Dental Association Vice-President and Dental Council of India Member G D Agarwal told media persons on the eve of World No Tobacco Day.
Tobacco causes several types of cancer but oral cancer accounts for 30 per cent of the tobacco toll -- three lakh deaths every year. As per the ICMR report, among tobacco users, 16 per cent are cigarette smokers and 44 per cent are beedi smokers -- a total 60 per cent. This implies that from among 150 million tobacco smokers, 90 per cent are at risk of lung cancer. The other 40 per cent use it along with betel nut, leaf, in gutka etc and are at risk of Oral Sub Mucous Fibrosis (OSMF).
“OSMF, caused by excess chewing of tobacco and betel nut, is leading to oral cancer as it is irreversible and pre-cancerous in nature,” claimes Dr Agarwal. Symptoms include burning sensation in the mouth, inability to open one's mouth, loss of taste and diminished ability to tolerate spicy food.
Pointing out that of the total victims of tobacco 90 per cent are mostly poor and hail from rural areas, the local Gandhi Medical College's former professor added that this 'frightening figure' is increasing day by day. “There is no definite treatment for OSMF. A high risk of oral cancer exists among OSMF victims when they consume tobacco, whether in smokeless or smoking form,” he warned.