13 Feb 2009

PNG medical fraternity calls for more betelnut regulation

4:36 pm on 13 February 2009

The medical fraternity in Papua New Guinea is calling for new laws to control the sale and use of betelnut, as deaths from mouth cancer continue to climb.

More than 2-thousand Papua New Guineans die each year from oral cancer, which has proven links to the chewing of the popular stimulant.

Betelnut was recently the subject of a World Health Organisation warning and its sale in public places banned in PNG's capital, Port Moresby.

The Medical Society's president, Professor Mathias Sapuri, wants to see the sale of the nut controlled and all chewing in public banned.

He says people have always chewed betelnut but more Highlanders are now adopting the habit.

"And I guess with the increasing incidence among the population in the Highlands region, that may have contributed to the significant increase of complications associated with that and in fact if you look at the statistics now, most of the mouth cancers that we now see are more common among the Highlanders of Papua New Guinea"

Professor Mathias Sapuri says cancer and other health problems associated with betelnut, including tuberculosis, are straining an already overloaded health system.