Objectives India has the highest number of cases of oral cancer in the world and this is increasing. This burden is not fully appreciated even within India, despite the high incidence and poor survival associated with this disease. Because the aetiology of oral cancer is predominantly tobacco-related, the immense public health challenge can be meliorated through habit intervention. Methods We reviewed current rates of incidence, mortality and survival, and investigated the determinants of disease and current prevention strategies. Results In addition to tobacco smoking and the myriad other forms of tobacco use prevalent in India, risk factors include areca nut consumption, alcohol consumption, human papillomavirus, increasing age, male gender and socioeconomic factors. Although India has world-leading cancer treatment centres, access to these is limited. Further, the focus of health care services remains clinical and is either curative or palliative. Conclusions Although the efforts of agencies such as the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Indian Dental Association are laudable, enhanced strategies should be based on common risk factors, focusing on primary prevention, health education, early detection and the earliest possible therapeutic intervention. A multi-agency approach is required.
- Oral cancer
- risk factors