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News  


 

Cancer alert over Beeda and Babul

By Rukshana Rizwie

With the recent crackdown on betel leaf and arecanut products sold to students in and around schools, comes a new warning.
They are potentially harmful because it increases the probability of developing oral cancer, according to the Ministry of Health.
Dr Jayasundara Bandara, director-general of the oral health unit, speaking to The Nation asserted that betel leaf and arecanut products are known to have chemicals that can spur the growth of oral cancer.
“Traditionally we all knew that tobacco was harmful to health and can potentially cause cancer. However lately even the World Health Organisation has cited that arecanut also has similar chemicals that are harmful to health,” he said.

“Arecanut and betel leaf products such as Beeda and Babul have added addictives, preservatives and sweeteners which makes it all the more tempting for children who try it, but all of this combined has a lethal effect on a child chewing it, increasing his chances of developing oral cancer by as much as 10 percent.”
Dr Banadara said the Narcotics Bureau at the police department when launched a campaign to crack down on these products could not isolate the specific product within the known items.
“For police to go to courts for legal action, if there is an item listed, they can get it banned, but when it’s a chemical that’s dangerous which has been added to the items, it’s much harder to crackdown,” he added.
The doctor explained that frequent use of these products can cause sub fibrosis.
“Frequent chewers of these products develop fiber bands under the skin in their mouth, and after time, it becomes difficult for them to open their mouth making the skin and lips rough and appear bruised in colour,” he said.

“This has a high tendency to turn into oral cancer. One of our researches who surveyed children in schools here found out that children as young as 13 years of age were already started to develop sub fibrosis, which is unusual and uncommon, because it is usually known to develop in adults over the age of 40.”
Dr Bandara cited that parents should be more vigilant of the habits of their children and ensure that they do not fall prey to the use of such harmful substances.
“Unlike chewing betel leaves, there’s not sign when a child uses an Arecanut product, it doesn’t not produce a colour or pungent smell, so it’s hard to detect. Hence parents should tell their children to be vary of Arecanut products sold in colorful packets outside their schools and at street corners,” he said.
“This is a silent killer and based on the evidences that we’ve already seen children developing sub fibrosis at an age as early as 13, this should be an eye opener to all.”