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Betelnut usage increases oral cancer risk 28-fold: experts

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Betel nut consumption can increase the chances of developing cancer of the mouth by 28 times, 89 times if coupled with smoking, and a staggering 123 times for the person who smokes and drinks, medical experts revealed yesterday.

Lin Yu-hsing, a physician with the ear, nose and throat department at Buddhist Tzu Chi Hospital, was cited as saying that oral cancer is the most common cancer for men between the ages 25 and 44, affecting 4,700 people a year in Taiwan.

Two thousand seven hundred people die of the affliction every year, Lin noted before adding that 80 percent of patients diagnosed with the cancer chew betel nuts on a regular basis.

Development of cancer cells is strongly linked to the habit, Lin underscored.

According to the doctor, malignant growth has a tendency to form on the tongue or the buccal mucosa, the mucous membrane on the inside of the cheek.

Those at risk of the carcinoma should be wary of skin lesions, lumps, or ulcer inside the oral cavity, and pain or paresthesia of the tongue, said Lin.

In related news, Premier Wu Dun-yih yesterday was cited as asserting that the government does not have plans to levy a betel nut tax.

There is nothing of the sort at this time, Wu repeatedly said at the Legislative Yuan.

Department of Health (DOH) Minister Yaung Chih-liang recently broached the idea of imposing a surcharge on betel nut purchases, citing success of the collection of cigarette taxes.

Cigarettes are taxed heavily throughout the world to discourage smokers from smoking.

Following the DOH proposal, the Council of Agriculture (COA) Minister Chen Wu-hsiung recommended that tax revenue be set aside for a sustainable land development fund.

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