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Pac Health Dialog. 2005 Mar;12(1):158-62.

Oral carcinoma associated with betel nut chewing in the Pacific: an impending crisis?

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University of Arizona, Tuscon, Arizona, USA.


In Western populations, tobacco and alcohol use are the major etiologic factors associated with oral cavity cancers. In developing countries of Asia and the South Pacific, however, oral cancer is increasingly associated with the chewing of betel nut. As the population of Asia and the South Pacific immigrates, Head and Neck surgeons in North America are likely to see more patients with oral carcinoma induced by betel nut chewing. Tumor Registry records from 1977-2003 from a tertiary care, referral medical center were reviewed. All patient charts (27) demonstrating betel quid use of greater than 20 years and carcinoma of the upper aerodigestive tract were entered into the study. Five-year disease-free rates by stage were as follows: Stage 1: 100% (2/2); Stage 11: 50% (2/4); Stage III: 36% (4/9): Stage IV: 25% (3/12). Despite the prevalent misperception in the Pacific region that betel nut chewing is a harmless habit, betel nut-induced oral carcinomas are aggressive malignancies requiring aggressive treatment and long-term follow-up.

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