One out of every 178 people that are habitual betel nut chewers or smokers has been diagnosed with oral cancer and nearly 30,000 people suffering from mouth cancer need medical attention, the Department of Health said yesterday.
According to the department’s statistics, the oral cancer diagnosis rate is rising by about 6,000 people annually.
It said that oral cancer is the form of cancer with the highest affliction rate among people in their prime or middle age.
The department said that people who chew betel nut and also smoke have a 123 times greater chance of developing mouth cancer than people who do not chew betel nut or smoke.
It added that it would name Dec. 3 as the nation’s betel nut chewing prevention day.
The department has been working with dentists and doctors since 2010 to perform annual oral mucous membrane checkups on betel nut chewers and smokers. They found that of the 900,000 smokers and betel nut chewers who participated in the checkups, one out of every 178 had developed oral cancer.
At least 30,000 afflicted patients need continuous medical care, the department said.
Taiwan Betel Nut and Oral Cancer Prevention Alliance chairman Hahn Liang-jiunn (韓良俊) said continuing betel nut chewing and high incidences of oral cancer show that efforts to prevent betel nut use and also prevent oral cancer were not yet successful.
Local governments should continue their efforts, but the alliance also needs help from the central government, Hahn said, adding that counties and cities should not be the only ones making an effort to impress upon the public the need to quit chewing betel nuts.
The Council of Agriculture and the Council of Labor Affairs should work together to encourage farmers to plant fewer betel nut trees and people to chew fewer betel nuts at work, Han said.
Meanwhile, a third annual nationwide county and city poll on oral cancer prevention has named six counties and cities as doing excellent prevention work. It singled out Taoyuan County for making the most improvements, the alliance said.
New Taipei City (新北市), Changhua County and Yilan County had a high population of betel nut chewers and smokers, while Greater Taichung, Greater Tainan and Greater Kaohsiung had a comparatively low population of smokers and betel nut chewers, the poll found.