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Smoking, miraa can lead to oral cancer, says study

Health & Science

You are at a higher risk of developing oral cancers, gum diseases and dental caries if you abuse alcohol, tobacco or chew miraa, a new report has revealed.

The National Oral Health Survey Report gives the grave verdict  that almost half of Kenyans are on drugs which is "relatively high" at 45.7 percent, meaning about 23 million Kenyans smoke tobacco, bhang, drink alcohol and chew miraa. 

The report launched by Health CS Mutahi Kagwe notes that 9.3 million Kenyans drink alcohol making it the most abused substance.

Those who chew miraa also chew gum and drink sugar-sweetened beverages and since most are often intoxicated “their oral hygiene is likely to be poor."

"Poor oral health contributes to diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and premature birth,” said Kagwe, adding that abusing the aforementioned substances also expose users to oral manifestations of HIV infection, oro-dental/facial trauma, palate and cleft lip.

Oral diseases account for the largest economic burden, pain and social exclusion as it “involves direct costs related to treatment as well as indirect costs caused by absenteeism at the workplace and school," notes the report.

The report adds that “dental caries and gum diseases are the most common while oral cancer is on the rise across many regions in the world” which is regrettable as oral conditions are largely preventable.

Kagwe said cancer is the third leading cause of death after infectious and cardiovascular diseases in Kenya where risk factors for dental diseases are similar to those in non-communicable diseases: high sugar intake, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol consumption.  

The mouth is the gateway to the body and the fact that many systemic diseases (such as anemia, leukemia, diabetes mellitus, osteoporosis, fluorosis, and HIV infection, among others) are present with oral manifestations justifies that the mouth is the mirror of the entire body, says the report.

Lip and oral cavity cancers are ranked 16 by incidence among cancers in Kenya in 2020, notes the report which lists opportunistic screening of targeted individuals at risk of developing oral cancer as one of the most effective ways to ensure early diagnosis. 

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