Every year on July 27, World Head and Neck Cancer Day is observed as an “opportunity to raise awareness about head and neck cancer in the general public and acknowledge the impact it has on people affected in our community”.
According to a 2016 study titled ‘Head and neck oncology: The Indian scenario’, head and neck cancers are a significant problem in our country constituting one-third of all cancer cases.
Terming them “tobacco-related” cancers, Dr Anil Kumar Prasad, Senior Director and HOD, Radiation Oncology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram, said, “Various ingredients in cigarettes and bidi have been proven to cause various cancers in head and neck region – like tongue cancers, cheek cancers, and cancers involving the voice box. Filter-less smoking, like bidi smoking, is even more dangerous.”
The expert added that the incidence of head and neck cancers gets doubled if someone consumes both cigarettes and alcohol. As such, quitting tobacco can reduce the chances of developing these cancers, over time.
“Besides cigarettes and alcohol, smokeless tobacco like paan masala etc also cause cheek cancers which is very prevalent in northern Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh,” Dr Anand noted.
However, it is important to note that all head and neck cancers are considered preventable as “non-consumption of cigarette and alcohol can prevent head and neck cancers in the majority of the people.”