PNG leads world with mouth cancer rate

According to the PNG World Health Organization Country Representative, Dr William Adu-Krow, in his speech at the inauguration of the National No Betel Nut Day, Papua New Guinea is at the top of the list globally in terms of having the highest incidence rate of oral cancer.

This is attributed to the high level of betel nut and tobacco consumption, and excessive use of alcohol in the country. According to the 2008 statistics, PNG tops the table for the Asia and Oceania region with 32.3 per 100,000 people suffering from oral cancer. This translated to 504 male cancer deaths in 2008.

Although oral cancer is ranked as the third most common type of cancer after cancers of the cervix and breast, PNG has the highest incidence rate of oral cancer in women in the world. According to Dr Adu-Krow, the major contributing factor for oral cancer in PNG is betel nut chewing. As such there is a need to change cultural practises to reduce the very high rate of oral cancer in the country.

While he acknowledged the practice of chewing betel nut was culturally entrenched in most Papua New Guinea societies, Dr Adu-Krow, however, pointed out that if there was any cultural practise that affects people’s health must be discouraged.

“If there is culture that promotes healthy practises then we should promote such cultural practises, and if there are cultural practises that are neutral and do not affect your health or kill you, then we can continue with such a culture,” said Dr Adu-Krow.

“The combination of Tobacco, excessive alcohol consumption and betel nut chewing greatly increases the risk of oral cancer in PNG. Measures are now needed to discourage the use of betel nut with or without tobacco.”

PNG number one in the world with highest mouth cancer cases

“Oral cancer was ranks number 11 globally in terms of prevalence; however in PNG it is ranked as the number one cancer killer in males in PNG and the third amongst for females”. For both males and females, PNG leads the world with the highest number of incidence rate for mouth cancer.”

Dr Adu-Krow stated that a set of effective measures were needed to discourage the use of betel nut and tobacco. These include: policies and legislation; education and advocacy; strategies to promote behavioural change; clinical services; surveillance and research, and partnerships and alliances.

Dr Adu-Krow thanked the National Department of Health (NDoH) for taking the lead in advocating and commemorating a national no betel nut day to fight against this number one killer of cancer patients in PNG.