Betel quid without tobacco as a risk factor for oral precancers

Oral Oncol. 2004 Aug;40(7):697-704. doi: 10.1016/j.oraloncology.2004.01.005.


The IARC monographs recently classified chewing betel quid without tobacco as a human carcinogen. Several studies in Taiwan have reported that betel quid without tobacco may increase the risk of oral precancers such as oral leukoplakia and oral submucous fibrosis. However in India, since most betel quid chewers prefer to add tobacco to the quid, the independent effect of betel quid on the risk of oral precancers is difficult to assess and has not yet been fully explored. We conducted a large case-control study in Kerala, India, including 927 oral leukoplakia cases, 170 oral submucous fibrosis cases, 100 erythroplakia cases, 115 multiple oral precancer cases and 47,773 controls. The focus of this reanalysis is on the minority of individuals who chewed betel quid without tobacco. Among nonsmokers and nondrinkers, chewing betel quid without tobacco conferred ORs of 22.2 (95%CI = 11.3, 43.7) for oral leukoplakia, 56.2 (95%CI = 21.8, 144.8) for oral submucous fibrosis, 29.0 (95%CI = 5.63, 149.5) for erythroplakia and 28.3 (95%CI = 6.88, 116.7) for multiple oral precancers, after adjustment for age, sex, education and BMI. Dose-response relationships were observed for both the frequency and duration of betel quid chewing without tobacco on the risk of oral precancers. In conclusion, our study supports the hypothesis that chewing betel quid without tobacco elevates the risks of various oral precancers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Areca / adverse effects*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukoplakia, Oral / etiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Oral Submucous Fibrosis / etiology
  • Precancerous Conditions / etiology*
  • Risk Factors