The Bureau of Health Promotion has opened classes in 30 communities across the country on how to quit betel nuts in an effort to reduce the prevalence of oral cavity cancer.
“Chewing betel nuts induces submucous fibrosis of the oral cavity,” Committee on Dental Medicine head Hahn Liang-jiunn (韓良俊) said yesterday.
“This is a hardening of the oral cavity, and is a precursor to cancer,” Hahn said.
Statistics released by the bureau show that nine out of every ten Taiwanese with oral cavity cancer had chewed betel nuts.
Every year, more than 5,000 people are diagnosed with oral cavity cancer, and more than 2,000 die of it, Bureau of Health Promotion deputy Director-General Chao Kun-yu (趙坤郁) said.
Not only is it the most prevalent form of cancer among males between the ages of 25 to 44, but it is also the form of cancer with the fastest growing death toll, he said.
The bureau has launched classes in 30 communities nationwide to help betel nut chewers quit the habit.
Mr Lien is one of the people who successfully quit betel nuts after taking the class. He said he used to chew betel nuts during his job as a truck driver.
“A lot of us [truck drivers] chew betel nuts,” he said. “I’ve had the habit for more than 20 years. It’s really hard to quit.”
After he was diagnosed with cancer, his family helped to give up the habit as well as to face surgery and chemotherapy.
Lien recovered, but after the cancer was removed from his face, he was left deformed.