Friday, 21 September 2012

Dangers of areca nut chewing: Spurt in oral cancers linked to supari

By Syed Akbar

Paan with supari may be ubiquitous at all auspicious functions ranging
from betrothal to housewarming ceremony, but scientists now link the
spurt in oral cancer cases to increasing consumption of this customary
nut. Researchers warn that supari or areca nut produces certain
harmful chemicals in the mouth leading to genetic mutations and oral

The incidence of oral cancers is linked to the time one keeps supari
in the mouth. Those who chew and swallow supari within a few moments
run less risk of oral cancers. Addition of paan or betel leaf and lime
only aggravates the problem as lime triggers additional chemical
reactions in the oral cavity.

Researchers from Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, have linked chewing
of areca nut to the burden of oral malignant disease and premature
death. “The increased incidence of cancer in the recent population can
be due to the change in the method of usage, i.e., keeping at
particular site rather than rapid chewing and swallowing of all the
contents, thereby decreasing direct contact time with the oral
mucosa,” the research team comprising Gunjan Shah and Pankaj
Chaturvedi pointed out.

Agreeing with the research findings, nutritionist Dr Suneetha Sapur,
who is also the director of Akkshaya Foundation, intake of areca nut
with tobacco increases the risk of oral cancer. “The presence of
tannins in supari inhibits the absorption of micronutrients like
iron,” she warns.

Dr P Vijay Anand Reddy, director of Apollo Cancer Hospital, Hyderabad,
observes pan masala is talked about as cancer causing, but most people
are not aware that areca nut is more dangerous and highly carcinogenic.

“We need to create more awareness on all forms of chewing habits like
pan masala, supari. Areca nut being carcinogenic we need to curb its
use to reduce the incidence of cancers,” he adds.

The research revealed that areca nut not only causes mutations, but
also damage the genes (genotoxic). This results in formation of
lesions, which ultimately cause cancer in the mouth. Incidentally,
areca nut is a psychoactive substance that has a soothing effect on
the brain.

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