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Cancer Risks for Betel Nut Chewers

The National Health Research Institute has warned the nation's betel-nut chewers of the increased risks of developing cancer when combined// with other detrimental habits like smoking and drinking.

According to a study conducted by the health researchers at the National Health Research Institute when betel nut chewing was combined with smoking and drinking the chances of developing cancer of the esophagus was about 195 times higher than those who do not. In addition chances of developing cancer of the pharynx increased by about 96.9 times and cancer of the larynx by about 40.3 times.

Ko Ying-chin, a professor at the institute headed the study. The study analyzed 165 males suffering from cancer of the esophagus with 255 cancer-free men as a control group. Results revealed that betel nuts, tobacco and alcohol increased the occurrence of those three kinds of cancer but a combination of the three multiplies the risks.

The study has shown that chewing betel nuts has a detrimental effect on the overall metabolic system. Although betel-nut chewers spit out its juice, some of it is invariably swallowed, entering the bloodstream. And then Arecoline, an ingredient in the betel nut, stays back as residue in the organs.

Effect of betel nuts on pregnant women have also been studied showing that 14.72 percent of habitual betel-nut chewing women gave birth to underweight infants as well as had increased chances of still births, miscarriages and premature babies.

Yang Mei-sang, professor and dean of the college of nursing at Kaohsiung Medical College, demonstrated that a female's educational level was very often related to her betel-nut chewing habit with less educated females being more likely to become betel nut chewers.

The study among Southeast Asian immigrants in Europe has revealed that infants of betel-nut chewing mothers suffered from neonatal abstinence syndrome, which was usually common among mothers taking add ictive substance during pregnancy.

One of the most common forms of cancer among males in the country has been identified as oral cancer, occurring at a rate of 30 out of 100,000. Such males also have a shorter life span than those who die from other forms of cancer.

The Aborigines form the larger part of the betel nut chewing population, to the extent of about 40 percent.

Ko has estimated that the government would have to spend at least NT$5 billion (US$151 million) a year to provide medical care for betel nut-related diseases.


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