Thu, Jul 26, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Hualien urges its chewing locals to abandon betel nut

STAFF WRITER , WITH CNA

The Hualien County Government has launched a campaign to curb betel nut chewing among locals to fight the county's rising number of deaths from oral cancer.

Health Bureau Director Shih Jen-hsing (施仁興) said yesterday that last year oral cancer became the third-largest cause of death among cancer sufferers in the county, moving up two notches from 2005.

He said the county recorded 67 deaths from oral cancer -- a rate of 19.3 deaths per 100,000 people -- last year, a significant increase from 14.7 oral cancer deaths per 100,000 in 2004.

Citing results of a survey by the central government's Department of Health in 2005, Shih said that 25.01 percent of the population in east Taiwan older than 15 are betel nut chewers -- the highest percentage in the country -- and that more than 90 percent of oral cancer patients chew betel nut.

He said the Health Bureau launched a campaign earlier this month to reduce consumption of betel nut by 1 million pieces within a year. More than 120 habitual betel nut chewers in 13 cities and townships have enrolled in the program.

Betel nut is widely used in Taiwan, as well as in other Southeast Asian countries. An estimated 1.6 million Taiwanese men are regular betel nut chewers.

Four years ago, a WHO study confirmed that chewing betel nut can cause oral cancer, with Asia possessing the highest rate of malignant mouth tumors.

Other studies have shown that betel nut chewers are 28 times more likely to develop oral cancer than non-users.

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