Bringing science and development together through news and analysis

  • Betel chewing 'causes cancer'

Shares

The widespread Asian habit of chewing 'betel-quid' can cause cancer, even when it is chewed without tobacco, according to a new review by the World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

A previous evaluation in 1985 found that chewing the substance — a combination of a type of vine leaf, areca nut, and slaked lime — can cause cancer of the mouth, pharynx and oesophagus when it is chewed with tobacco. But the new review concludes that chewing betel-quid alone can cause cancer of the mouth, and that chewing areca nut can result in a pre-cancerous condition known as oral submucous fibrosis.

Hundreds of millions of people across Asia chew betel-quid for its stimulant effect, to satisfy hunger, and to freshen the breath. In recent years, the arrival of a variety of commercial betel-quid and areca-nut products on the world market — combined with aggressive marketing campaigns — has increased their usage.

Oral cancers are more common in parts of the world where betel-quid is chewed, according to the review. For example, in Taiwan and China the incidence of oral cancer in men has tripled over the past 20 years, coinciding with a steep rise in the number of men who chew the substance.

Republish
We encourage you to republish this article online and in print, it’s free under our creative commons attribution license, but please follow some simple guidelines:
  1. You have to credit our authors.
  2. You have to credit SciDev.Net — where possible include our logo with a link back to the original article.
  3. You can simply run the first few lines of the article and then add: “Read the full article on SciDev.Net” containing a link back to the original article.
  4. If you want to also take images published in this story you will need to confirm with the original source if you're licensed to use them.
  5. The easiest way to get the article on your site is to embed the code below.
For more information view our media page and republishing guidelines.