KARACHI: Experts on Sunday identified oral cancer in men and breast cancer in women as commonest cancers in Pakistan and their incidence was alarmingly on the rise.

They said oral cancer was caused mainly by paan, gutka, betel nuts and tobacco.

“Almost 30 to 50 per cent of cancers can be cured if treated at early stages for which timely diagnosis is crucial,” said an expert at a seminar marking the World Cancer Day.

With a three year global theme “IAmAndIWill” announced by the Union of International Cancer Control world cancer day was begin celebrated across the globe on Monday (today) urging all communities and stakeholders to make personal commitment towards its prevention and bringing down the numbers.

The awareness seminar was organised with the support of National Institute of Child Health (NICH), Child Aid Association (CAA), Mohammadi Blood Bank, Consumer Rights Protection Council of Pakistan (CRPC) and at the NICH auditorium.

Prof Nizamul Hasan, Prof Rufina Soomro, Dr Mohammad Ali Memon of the Sindh Healthcare Commission, Dr Suleman Otho, Pakistan Medical Association secretary general Dr Qaiser Sajjad, Dr Asghar H Asghar, Shakil Baig, Tariq Shafi and Akhtar Rind spoke on the occasion.

Prof Nizamul Hasan said a cancer awareness programme had been launched in schools in which it was worried to see very young kids were using betel nuts and other addictive stuff.

“Around two per cent of children are suffering from cancer in Pakistan, however it can be well managed and treated successfully. Majority of cancer related deaths occurred not because of cancer but infections. Smoke, air pollution and other diseases can also cause cancer,” he added.

Dr Mohammad Ali Memon said around 70pc of cancers were caused by infections reminding that how hygiene was important.

“More than 60pc cancer cases are caused by HIV and hepatitis. We have 13 million hepatitis patients in the country. Paan, betel nut and tobacco are major causes of cancer in our country.”

He said that more than 30pc of cases could be prevented with the help of modifiable risk factors including lifestyle, diet and physical activity.

The preventable cancers included breast, liver, skin, cervical, lungs, colorectal and oral cancers.

Quoting the World Health Organization, speakers said 18 to 21 million new cases of cancers were reported worldwide every year while more than 9.5m patients died of the disease.

Dr Suleman Otho highlighted importance of healthy lifestyle and advised that everyone should work for eight hours and take rest for as much time to keep oneself mentally fit.

Dr Qaiser Sajjad showed pictures of patients suffering from cancer and urged public to immediately stop use of tobacco in any form.

“Oral cancer is leading cancer in men which is mainly caused by paan, betel nut and gutka. People are afraid to undergo biopsy although it can confirm diagnosis. Cancer is not spread by biopsy. People should get it if advised by qualified doctors,” he added.

He said that over 40pc of men and 30pc of women were using betel nuts in any form in Pakistan and asked the government to impose a complete ban on import of betel nuts.

“Its sale should immediately be stopped within and outside schools.”

Experts said heart attack and cancer were two major causes of death in the world, adding, cancers could be prevented by taking all necessary measures.

Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2019