The precancer risk of betel quid chewing, tobacco use and alcohol consumption in oral leukoplakia and oral submucous fibrosis in southern Taiwan

Br J Cancer. 2003 Feb 10;88(3):366-72. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6600727.


In areas where the practise of betel quid chewing is widespread and the chewers also often smoke and drink alcohol, the relation between oral precancerous lesion and condition to the three habits is probably complex. To explore such association and their attributable effect on oral leukoplakia (OL) and oral submucous fibrosis (OSF), a gender-age-matched case-control study was conducted at Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan. This study included 219 patients with newly diagnosed and histologically confirmed OL or OSF, and 876 randomly selected community controls. All information was collected by a structured questionnaire through in-person interviews. A preponderance of younger patients had OSF, while a predominance of older patients had OL. Betel quid chewing was strongly associated with both these oral diseases, the attributable fraction of OL being 73.2% and of OSF 85.4%. While the heterogeneity in risk for areca nut chewing across the two diseases was not apparent, betel quid chewing patients with OSF experienced a higher risk at each exposure level of chewing duration, quantity and cumulative measure than those who had OL. Alcohol intake did not appear to be a risk factor. However, cigarette smoking had a significant contribution to the risk of OL, and modified the effect of chewing based on an additive interaction model. For the two oral premalignant diseases combined, 86.5% was attributable to chewing and smoking. Our results suggested that, although betel quid chewing was a major cause for both OL and OSF, its effect might be difference between the two diseases. Cigarette smoking has a modifying effect in the development of oral leukoplakia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Areca / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukoplakia, Oral / epidemiology
  • Leukoplakia, Oral / etiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oral Submucous Fibrosis / epidemiology
  • Oral Submucous Fibrosis / etiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Taiwan / epidemiology
  • Tobacco / adverse effects*