Chewing betel quid exposes half a billion people to direct carcinogens

Chewing betel quid—the fourth most popular psychoactive substance in the world after tobacco, alcohol and caffeine—exposes its 600 million users to substances that act as direct carcinogens in the mouth, scientists are reporting in a new study. It appears in ACS' journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.

Mu-Rong Chao and Chiung-Wen Hu explain that betel quid (BQ) consists of nuts from the arcea tree, sometimes combined with spices, such as cardamom or saffron, and other ingredients. Available in commercial forms, BQ is popular among people in China, India and other Asian countries, and people of Asian heritage living in the U.S. and other countries. Scientists have known for decades that chewing BQ can lead to oral cancer, and showed recently that the substances in BQ could be changed into carcinogens in the body. The authors of this study explored whether there were any substances in the arcea nut that can cause cancer directly, without any need for the body to change or "activate" them.

They discovered that compounds in the arcea nut can "alkylate" the genetic material DNA, causing changes that increase the risk of cancer, and they are present in betel quid in amounts high enough to do so. "Our study showed that these are present at levels sufficient to cause and could potentially have adverse implications to human health, particularly in the case of the development of for BQ chewers," they say.

More information: Chemical Research in Toxicology doi: 10.1021/tx300252r

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Cancer: Tumors absorb sugar for mobility

1 hour ago

Cancer cells are gluttons. We have long known that they monopolize large amounts of sugar. More recently, it became clear that some tumor cells are also characterized by a series of features such as mobility or unlikeliness ...

Early hormone therapy may be safe for women's hearts

10 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Healthy women at low risk of cardiovascular disease may be able to take hormone replacement therapy soon after menopause for a short time without harming their hearts, according to a new study.

Low yield for repeat colonoscopy in some patients

11 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Repeat colonoscopies within 10 years are of little benefit to patients who had no polyps found on adequate examination; however, repeat colonoscopies do benefit patients when the baseline examination was compromised, ...

Cell's recycling center implicated in division decisions

13 hours ago

Most cells do not divide unless there is enough oxygen present to support their offspring, but certain cancer cells and other cell types circumvent this rule. Researchers at The Johns Hopkins University have now identified ...

User comments