Kerala's medical community has said that tobacco consumption indeed causes cancer amid widespread shock and anguish over misinformed statements on tobacco's association with cancer.
Dr. Paul Sebastian, well-known surgical oncologist and director of Regional Cancer Centre here, said no less than the World Health Organization has categorically said that tobacco causes cancer. He pointedly referred to the cohort study in Karunagappally Taluk in Alappuzha district started in the late 1980s to study the potential health effects of high background radiation.
The study that covered 65,829 men aged 30-84 years showed an elevated lung cancer incidence among beedi
smokers, strengthening the association of lung cancer risk with beedi
"Karunagappally is known for high background radiation from thorium-containing monazite sand and the study set out to explore the lung and other cancer risks increased by exposure to high-level natural radiation, and the synergistic effect between radiation and other factors, including beedi
smoking. However, our cohort study showed that the relatively high lung cancer incidence in this area is unlikely to be due to high-level natural radiation," Sebastian added.
Founder director of Regional Cancer Centre, M. Krishnan Nair said the prime minister's assurance that the government will go ahead with 85% pictorial warnings on packets of cigarettes is reassuring.
"Baseless statements that tobacco does not cause cancer cannot take away from established facts of science, and collective efforts of the scientific and medical fraternity. Reports of the National Cancer Registry Program (NCRP) have a dedicated chapter on tobacco related cancers. The 2011 Report shows 45.4% tobacco related cancers among males and 16.8% among females in India," said Nair.
V.P.Gangadharan, eminent medical oncologist and head of Medical and Pediatric Oncology, Lakeshore Hospital at Kochi, said tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death and disease and strategies such as large pictorial warnings can save one million precious Indian lives every year. "Tobacco snatches away the best years of a user's life, hampering productivity and social well-being. Pictorial warnings of 85% can go a long way in preventing youngsters, migrants, and illiterates from getting addicted to tobacco products," said Gangadharan.