‘Oral cancer is less common in West’
We chew normal tobacco in countries like Bangladesh, India and Pakistan and thus, statistics has proven that oral cancer is 10 times more in these countries compared to western countries, says Dr Kalyan Gangwal, MD (medicine), anti-tobacco / gutka crusaderpune Updated: Oct 29, 2017 16:35 IST
Dr Kalyan Gangwal, MD (medicine), anti-tobacco / gutka crusader, is a gold medallist from BJ Medical College and has many awards under his belt not just as a physician, but also an ardent activist and a spirited crusader for animal rights. He is also a panel consultant to Poona Hospital and KEM hospital and practices in Sadashiv Peth. HT in conversation with him over the importance of fighting oral cancer.
How widespread is oral cancer in the country?
Oral cancer is highest in our country and in countries where chewable tobacco is consumed. In western countries, they chew smokeless tobacco. We chew normal tobacco in countries like Bangladesh, India and Pakistan and thus, statistics has proven that oral cancer is 10 times more in these countries compared to western countries. Beetel nut contains arrecoline, which is an alkaloid responsible for sub-mucus fibrosis, which is a pre-cancerous condition.
What explains the carcinogenic nature of gutkha?
Gutka is marketed with no expiry date. Thus, a chemical reaction would take place within the sachet as well.
In the past, people would rub tobacco with lime on palm of their hand. Cancer was not high then, but with the introduction of gutkha 20 years ago, the threat of cancer became almost 10 times more. Cancer producing chemicals include onzepyrin, nirtasamine, pherpherol, nicotine and carbolic acid.
What other health complications are caused by gutkha?
Gutkha also leads to sexual problems; erectile dysfunction was found in those who would eat 15 to 20 sachets a day. Impotency and sterility are other ailments caused by the stimulant.
How did the anti-Gutkha campaign begin?
I pioneered the anti-gutkha campaign and started speaking about it at medical conferences and schools. But no action was taken by the government as the tobacco lobby was very powerful then. But the campaign was taken more seriously after several gutkha consumers complained of ‘locking of mouth’- a painful condition called fibrosis in the mouth, where the mouth elasticity becomes so weak that people cannot even open the mouth.
How effective is the ban by the government?
Although action was taken by the government, gutkha is still freely sold in the market as there is no uniform law about the manufacturing, sale and storage of gutkha.