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WHO South East Asia J Public Health. 2019 Sep;8(2):95-100. doi: 10.4103/2224-3151.264853.

Digital possibilities in the prevention and early detection of oral cancer in the WHO South-East Asia Region.

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Centre for Dental Education and Research, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Oral Health Promotion, New Delhi, India
World Health Organization Regional Office for South-East Asia, New Delhi, India


Cancers of the lip and oral cavity are the most common cancers among men in the World Health Organization (WHO) South-East Asia Region. Most cancers of the oral cavity are attributable to tobacco smoking, smokeless tobacco use and areca-nut product use, alone or in combination, and excessive consumption of alcohol. These risk factors are highly prevalent in parts of the region. This paper outlines an integrated framework for oral cancer prevention, which includes a strengthened primary health-care workforce, enhanced community engagement and a positive policy environment. Operationalizing this framework could be greatly facilitated by the application of digital technologies. Robust evidence exists for the effectiveness of using appropriately trained primary health-care workers to screen for oral cancer by oral visual examination; this can be combined with counselling for riskbehaviour modification as part of an overall strategy on noncommunicable diseases. This needs to be supported by greater overall community engagement, for example to tackle low levels of awareness of the harmful effects of smokeless tobacco and areca-nut products. A strong policy environment that supports and promotes these efforts is essential, along with the enforcement of the measures required by the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Despite the burden of disease, oral cancer has been a neglected area of public health. This paper considers how the positively disruptive effects of digital technology may enable much-needed acceleration in prevention and control efforts.


areca nut; digital health; oral cancer; oral visual examination; tobacco; South-East Asia

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