Mouth cancer high among Highlanders, doctor says

Health Watch

MOUTH cancer is high among people originating from Highlands of Papua New Guinea as a result of betel nut (buai) chewing, a doctor says.
Port Moresby General Hospital (PMGH) physician and head of cancer clinic Dr Peter Olali said most mouth cancer cases that were seen at the clinic were Highlanders.
“(Out) of 20 patients (that) come in here, 17 will be from the Highlands and three will be from the coastal provinces,” he said.
“I see a lot of them so when they walk in I will call the name of their province and they confirm it.
“That’s the reality we are seeing.”
Dr Olali said it did not matter if one chewed moderately or occasionally betel nut chewing caused mouth cancer.
He said betel nut chewing, smoking and alcohol consumption when combined increased the chances of developing oral cancers.
Dr Olali said generational consumption of betel nuts had seen some people develop a tolerance compared to other groups that had only acquired the habit in one or two generations.
“For some people their forefathers have been chewing for generations hence their genes are used to it therefore they can be great chewers yet they will not get mouth cancer.”
He said for others including some Highlanders, who have been recently introduced to chewing betel nut and consumed it frequently the chances of developing mouth cancer was high.
Dr Olali urged people to go to the hospital as soon as they noticed a sore in their mouth that lasted for two weeks or more.
He said betel nut chewing was the leading cause of mouth cancer in the country.

One thought on “Mouth cancer high among Highlanders, doctor says

  • This is because buai trees don’t grow in the highlands, and for those who chew it, they don’t chew it properly. They abuse it by spitting the red stains all over the place, including their own body and clothes.

    This also creates a health and safety hazard for others and themselves (the chewers).

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