The Cambodian National Survey of Oral Muscoal Lesions, launched yesterday at the University of Puthisastra’s health faculty, found the prevalence of oral cancer and potentially malignant oral disorders among Cambodians was 5.6 per cent – about five times more than some other ASEAN countries.
“For a lot of countries, prevalence is about 1 per cent, for example, in Malaysia, we only have 1.3 per cent,” said Rosnah Zain, professor of oral pathology and oral medicine and head of the Oral Cancer Research and Coordinating Centre at the University of Malaya.
The study, funded by the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education, examined 1,634 adults from five provinces. Alcohol was the most common risk factor, consumed by 22 per cent of respondents, followed by smoking, 20 per cent, and betel or tobacco quid chewing, 8 per cent.
Zain said alcohol alone did not play a big role, but the risk of developing oral cancer jumped when combined with smoking.
Cambodia needs to improve anti-smoking efforts, increase the number of trained specialists and raise public awareness of initial symptoms, she said. Oral cancer has a survival rate of less than 50 per cent if detected late, as is often the case in Cambodia.
Dr Hak Sithan, deputy director of the preventative medicine department at the Ministry of Health, a partner in the study, said the next steps in fighting the disease were training dentists in public hospitals in oral pathology, supporting students and developing a public awareness campaign.