Epidemiology of Oral Cancer in Asia in the Past Decade- An Update (2000-2012)

  • Rao, Sree Vidya Krishna (Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health, School of Dentistry) ;
  • Mejia, Gloria (Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health, School of Dentistry) ;
  • Roberts-Thomson, Kaye (Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health, School of Dentistry) ;
  • Logan, Richard (Oral Pathology, School of Dentistry)
  • Published : 2013.10.30


The prevalence of oral cancers (OC) is high in Asian countries, especially in South and Southeast Asia. Asian distinct cultural practices such as betel-quid chewing, and varying patterns of tobacco and alcohol use are important risk factors that predispose to cancer of the oral cavity. The aim of this review is to provide an update on epidemiology of OC between 2000 and 2012. A literature search for this review was conducted on Medline for articles on OC from Asian countries. Some of the articles were also hand searched using Google. High incidence rates were reported from developing nations like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Taiwan and Sri Lanka. While an increasing trend has been observed in Pakistan, Taiwan and Thailand, a decreasing trend is seen in Philippines and Sri Lanka. The mean age of occurrence of cancer in different parts of oral cavity is usually between 51-55 years in most countries. The tongue is the leading site among oral cancers in India. The next most common sites in Asian countries include the buccal mucosa and gingiva. The 5 year survival rate has been low for OC, despite improvements in diagnosis and treatment. Tobacco chewing, smoking and alcohol are the main reasons for the increasing incidence rates. Low socioeconomic status and diet low in nutritional value lacking vegetables and fruits contribute towards the risk. In addition, viral infections, such as HPV and poor oral hygiene, are other important risk factors. Hence, it is important to control OC by screening for early diagnosis and controlling tobacco and alcohol use. It is also necessary to have cancer surveillance at the national-level to collect and utilise data for cancer prevention and control programs.


Oral cancer;epidemiology;incidence;mortality;socioeconomic conditions;risk factor


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