Categories: General Health

Gutka: The suicide masala: a perfect recipe for oral cancer

Tobacco : one such product which is able to turn on a symphony of bad actors in a very organic manner. I call it : SUICIDE MASALA. Please put to bed any lingering doubt as to whether tobacco has left it’s bad fingerprints all over the world . Everyday slowly and gradually it’s killing us and our planet and this is one single product which destroys it’s most loyal customers. . Inspite of that, surprisingly India is the 3rd largest producer and consumer of tobacco and now because of stricter legislstion 60% of tobacco users use only smokeless tobacco.

Gutka i.e. “betel quid” is a smokeless chewed tobacco which is made of crushed areca nut, tobacco, catechu, paraffin wax, slaked lime (calcium hydroxide) and sweet or savoury flavourings. Some spices are also added as flavouring agents e.g. mustard, turmeric, anise seeds, cardamom, saffron and cloves. Ignorance is not always bliss. But what a user doesnot know is that apart from nicotine it is laced with 4200 chemicals out of which 28 are carcinogenic (cancer causing agents ).Nicotine is a nervous system stimulant and is added so that person has intense craving for it and the user gets addicted to it . Areca nut contains tannins which act as stimulants and alkaloids . Gutka is sold in the disguise of mouth freshner and is the 4th most common psychoactive substance used globally.

A consumer usually places a pinch of it between the gum and cheek and then gently sucks or chews it . When a person chews gutka, the mixture directly enters our body through the oral cavity. After mixing with saliva it turns red in colour and imparts a “buzz ” which is more intense than that of tobacco chewing, snuffing and smoking. It creates a false sense of well being, euphoria, warm sensation inside the body, sweating, salivation , palpitation and heightened alertness, tolerance to hunger and increased capacity and stamina to work.

So, most of the people start consuming it a very young age for fun, because of its good taste, pressure of friends or under influence of glittery advertisements. Unfortunately, the consumer doesn’t realise that nicotine and nitrosamines initiate the process of reactive oxygen species which leads to fibroblastic reaction , DNA and RNA damage leading to cancer. Nicotine in gutkha is absorbed 2-3 times more than cigarettes and may lead to microscopic abrasions in the cheek which speed up the absorption of nicotine. It’s the most common cause of leukoplakia( white patches in the mouth )and submucous fibrosis which leads to gradually tightening of mouth and inability to open mouth.The sad part is it does not regress and has no cure and consumer has to live with it. It also leads to very high risk of cancer in users which is almost 400 times as that of non user. It leads to very high risk of cancers of the cheek and jaw ( gingivobuccal complex ) and is termed as “Indian Oral cancer”. It’s a very creepy, bad and incurable cancer and destroys many young people and leads to extensive and very mutilating facial surgery, has very high chances of local and distant spread It can also lead to metabolic syndrome, hypertension , diabetes and obesity.

Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of disease, disability and death worldwide. It kills one human being every 6 seconds. , 560 people every hour, 13,440 people per day and 49 lakh people per annum. It kills 15 times more people as suicides, murder or manslaughter.

So,please remember your mouth is not a dorrmat to dust down anything. It’s very important to leave the habit of chewing gutkha if u dont want to drown in the river of unhappiness. It just needs very strong will power, support of family and friends, behavioural intervention, strong pictorial health warnings, awareness campaigns, social support groups, tobacco cessation clinics, pharmacologic therapy ( including telephone calls, individual counseling, rational emotive therapy and yoga with pranayam ) and new legislative policies to curb the production , trade and consumption of betel nut. So let’s all pledge to quit tobocaao chewing and make India oral cancer free.

Dr. Indu Bansal Aggarwal

Narayana Health

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