The ‘Head and Neck cancer’ is among the top most cancers affecting Indian men and the third most common ailment among women, a study by Indian Council Medical Research has found.

The ‘Head and Neck’ cancers or Head Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (HNSC) usually begin in the squamous cells that line the moist, mucosal surfaces inside the head and neck (for example, inside the mouth, nose and throat).

The study further mentions that oral cancer is the commonest among all HNSC cancers.

Around 50 per cent of the affected people die within 12 months of its diagnosis. Throat Cancer (Pharynx and Larynx) is next to oral cancer in terms of prevalence, it said.

The HNSC cancer has been linked with increased consumption of tobacco including gutka and pan masala.

As per a 2014 study conducted by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and World Health Organization on the impact of banning of tobacco in India, 90 per cent of respondents (gutka users) desired that the government should ban the manufacturing, sale and distribution of all forms of smokeless tobacco.

The study was conducted with 1,001 current and former gutka users and 458 tobacco product retailers in eight states – Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Delhi.

The survey also found that of the respondents who continue to use pre-packaged gutka (available illegally), 50 per cent reported they consume less since the ban and 80 per cent believed that ban will motivate them to quit.

According to the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) data, output of tobacco, including cigarettes, bidis and chewable tobacco products, declined by 12.1 per cent in March 2015 since the last year.

But experts complain that the ban imposed on chewable tobacco by various states is ineffective in bringing a larger change as both pan masala and tobacco are freely available in markets.

The government should increase taxes over tobacco products and impose a total ban over them to check the consumption of the same, Dr R C Sahani, chairman of Samvedna Foundation of Kota, an NGO working in this sector said.

Dr Pawan Singhal, Associate Professor, SMS Hospital noted that since 90 per cent of HNSCC cancers are related to tobacco, alcohol and areca nut usage, they are highly preventable.

They can be prevented and cured if detected early, he said.

The experts added that, however, millions of people suffer from delayed diagnosis, inadequate treatment, inappropriate rehabilitation and palliation.

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