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Unspoken Danger

Jun/07/2024 / by Team Seema

Oral cancer continues to affect South Asians at higher rates

We use our mouths everyday to speak, laugh, and eat. But despite our familiarity with this well-used part of our bodies, oral cancer can often lurk undetected for years. This silent killer disproportionately affects South Asians, with higher rates of incidence and mortality compared to other ethnic groups.  In one Canadian study, researchers found the incidence of oral cancer had about 28% higher rate among South Asians, both residents and immigrants, than the rest of the population. 

Several factors contribute to this disparity, including cultural practices like chewing betel quid or tobacco, as well as limited access to dental care and awareness of early warning signs. Symptoms such as persistent mouth sores, unusual lumps or thickening in the cheek, and difficulty chewing or swallowing may indicate oral cancer but are often overlooked.

But proactive steps and simple lifestyle changes can help. Here’s what experts suggest:

  1. Quit tobacco: Whether smoked or chewed, tobacco is a leading cause of oral cancer. Seek support to quit and encourage loved ones to do the same.
  2. Limit alcohol consumption: Heavy alcohol use, especially when combined with tobacco, dramatically increases oral cancer risk.
  3. Maintain good oral hygiene: Regular brushing, flossing, and dental check-ups can help detect abnormalities early on.
  4. Eat a balanced diet: A diet rich in fruits and vegetables may lower the risk of developing oral cancer.
  5. Know the signs: Familiarize yourself with oral cancer symptoms and see a dentist or doctor if any persist for more than two weeks.

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