Oral or mouth cancer is one of the most common cancers in Asia and most of it is caused by tobacco. These are disfiguring cancers which can only be made better by endoscopic surgeries like minimally invasive neck dissection.

Tobacco has an interesting history. In October 1492, Christopher Columbus was offered dried tobacco leaves as a gift from the American Indians that he encountered. Soon after, sailors brought tobacco back to Europe, and the plant was being grown all over Europe. Tobacco, probably mixed with lime or chalk, appears to have been used in these Native American populations as a toothpaste to whiten the teeth, it was perhaps in 1500AD that the notion of tobacco as a panacea became prevalent.

Tobacco was also used as a medicinal plant during this time. It was used for treating ulcerated abscesses, fistulas, sores, inveterate polyps and many other ailments. Breathing the odour of fresh green leaves of the plant relieve persistent headaches. For colds and catarrh, green or powdered leaves should be rubbed around inside the mouth. Diseases of glands in the neck could be cured by cutting out the root of the lesion and placing on it crushed tobacco plant hot and mixed with salt, on the same spot. Well, to tell the truth, during those days tobacco was the solution for every ailment! 

However, those were the days when the evidence was scarce.

Till the beginning of 20th century, the ill effects of tobacco abuse were unknown to the public. The tobacco giants ran advertisements claiming the benefits of tobacco. They advised that regular smoking would improve one’s health. It took an enormous effort by the activists and scientific community to discover the ill effects of tobacco. Today, we know that tobacco use is the single greatest avoidable risk factor for cancer mortality worldwide, causing an estimated 22% of cancer deaths per year. In 2004, 1.6 million of the 7.4 million cancer deaths were due to tobacco use.

Tobacco smoking causes many types of cancer, including cancers of the lung, oesophagus, larynx (voice box), mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, pancreas, stomach and cervix. About 70% of the lung cancer burden can be attributed to smoking alone. Second-hand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke, has been proven to cause lung cancer in non-smoking adults. Smokeless tobacco (also called oral tobacco, chewing tobacco or snuff) causes oral, oesophageal and pancreatic cancer.

Cigarettes, cigars, and pipe tobacco are made from dried tobacco leaves. Other substances are added for flavour and to make smoking more pleasant. The smoke from these products is a complex mixture of chemicals produced by the burning of tobacco and its additives. Tobacco smoke is made up of more than 7,000 chemicals, including over 70 known to cause cancer (carcinogens). There is no safe amount of tobacco. Any amount can cause cancer. The dose required in each person is different.

So, it is better to SAY NO TO TOBACCO.