Stopping use of tobacco and adopting a healthy lifestyle can prevent almost 80 per cent of head and neck cancer cases in India, say doctors. Head and neck cancer cases accounted for 30 and 10 per cent of total cancers in males and females respectively between 2007 and 2013, according to a consolidated report of Bengaluru’s National Centre for Disease Informatics and Research.
The doctors have also said that head and neck cancers occur 90 per cent more among males than females due to the high use of tobacco and alcohol.
“As many as 90 per cent of head and neck cancers arise after prolonged exposure to specific risk factors such as use of tobacco (cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, or snuff) and alcoholic beverages. These are the most common causes of cancers of the mouth, throat, voicebox and tongue,” said Kapil Kumar, head of surgical oncology at BLK Hospital.
Cautioning the non-smokers, Kumar said: “In adults who do not smoke or drink, cancer of the throat can occur as a result of infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV).” According Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute, 50 per cent of head and neck cancers are oral or mouth cancers.
Other forms of head and neck cancer include cancer of the lyranx (voicebox), throat (phyrangial), paranasal sinus, thyroid and salivary glands.
Tapaswini P. Sharma, a senior Delhi-based surgeon, said: “Most head and neck cancers produce early symptoms. It’s just that one should know the potential warning signs so that it can be treated before the cancer cells spread. Successful treatment of the head and neck cancer depends on early detection. Knowing and recognising its signs can save lives.”
Doctors said intake of more than 50 gm alcohol per day increases the risk five- to six-fold in men and consumption of as low as 10-20 gm per day significantly increases the risk in females. Looking at the increasing number of tobacco consumers in India, the Health Ministry has implemented the 85 per cent pictorial warnings on packets of tobacco and it’s products.
Aditya Gaur, oncologist at All India Institute of Medical Sciences said: “Head and Neck cancer is the sixth leading cancer by incidence worldwide and eighth by death. The five-year survival rate of patient with head and neck cancer is about 40-50 per cent.”
“Smoking increases your risk of head and neck cancer 15 times compared with a non-smoker. Men are 90 per cent more likely than women to be diagnosed with and are almost twice as likely to die of these cancers,” said Gaur.