It’s a known fact that tobacco causes cancer. But there are few researches across the globe to explain this link a gap that has been exploited by the industry lobby to argue against a ban on tobacco-related products.
But in a big breakthrough, Indian scientists have established the genetic changes caused by tobacco consumption that lead to cancer. It is based on a gene study of 383 patients suffering from cancer of the head and neck and undergoing treatment at AIIMS and 383 healthy people.
Doctors found 93% of the patients were tobacco users, and polymorphism of HLA-G – an immunomodulatory molecule with the ability to inhibit immune cell function -was much higher in them compared to healthy individuals. The team of researchers from AIIMS included Dr Vertica Agnihotri, Dr Sharmishta Dey and Dr Lalit Kumar, among others.
The study stated that cancer of the head and neck was common among Indian men and it was caused mostly due to tobacco consumption. Dr Agnihotri said tobacco smoke contained more than 50 potent carcinogens, including tobacco-specific nicotine. “These chemicals can affect DNA damage processes by providing a strong free radical generating environment, which could lead to genetic alterations of DNA,” she added.
On World No Tobacco Day on Wednesday, Union health minister J P Nadda and director general of health services Jagdish Prasad flagged off a ceremony for mass awareness about ill-effects of tobacco consumption.
The World Health Organisation, on its part, is calling on countries to prioritise and accelerate tobacco control efforts as part of their responses to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.