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Passive Smoking: an impending threat to non-smokers – it increases the risk of mouth cancer by 51%, warn scientists

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People exposed to passive smoking also known as secondhand smoke found to be more vulnerable to Oral cancer, according to new research.

Oral cancers – lip, oral cavity and oropharynx cancers – account for almost 450,000 new cases of cancer and more than 228,000 deaths every year globally.

Scientists say that significant risk factors for these forms of cancer include tobacco smoking and the use of smokeless tobacco as well as drinking alcohol.

Tobacco smoke forms the largest exposure of humans to chemical carcinogens and it causes one out of five cancer-related deaths in the world.

However, it is not only active smokers affected as, according to data from 192 countries, 33 per cent of male non-smokers, 35 per cent of female non-smokers and 40 per cent of children were exposed to involuntary smoking in one year by inhaling secondhand tobacco smoke.

Previous research has shown that inhaling secondhand smoke causes several diseases, including lung cancer.

Although tobacco smoking is a known cause of oral cancer, it has not yet been established whether or not secondhand smoke also causes oral cancer.

An international team of researchers from Britain, Portugal, Spain and the United States set out to evaluate if there was a potential association between secondhand smoke exposure and the risk of oral cancer.

They reviewed and analyzed five existing relevant studies involving more than 6,900 people collectively of whom 3,452 were exposed to secondhand smoke and 3,525 were not. The studies were conducted in Asia, Europe, North America, and Latin America.

Their analysis, published online in the journal Tobacco Control, showed that people who were exposed to secondhand smoke had a 51 per cent higher risk of developing oral cancer.

Duration of exposure of more than 10 or 15 years increased the risk of oral cancer to more than twice that compared with non-exposed individuals, according to the findings.

Study co-author Professor Saman Warnakulasuriya, of King’s College London, said:

“This systematic review and meta-analysis support a causal association between secondhand smoke exposure and oral cancer.

“Moreover, the analyses of exposure-response, including by duration of exposure – more than 10 or 15 years – to secondhand smoke, further supports causal inference.”

He added:

“The identification of the harmful effects of secondhand smoke exposure provides guidance to public health professionals, researchers, and policymakers as they develop and deliver effective secondhand smoke exposure prevention programs and adopt appropriate measures to implement guidelines in Article 8 of the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.”

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