Chewing betel quid exposes half a billion people to direct carcinogens

October 24, 2012

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.

Explore further: First identification of a strong oral carcinogen in smokeless tobacco

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

Related Stories

First identification of a strong oral carcinogen in smokeless tobacco

August 22, 2012
Scientists today reported identification of the first substance in smokeless tobacco that is a strong oral carcinogen ― a health risk for the 9 million users of chewing tobacco, snuff and related products in the U.S. ...

First evidence from humans on how alcohol may boost risk of cancer

August 22, 2012
Almost 30 years after discovery of a link between alcohol consumption and certain forms of cancer, scientists are reporting the first evidence from research on people explaining how the popular beverage may be carcinogenic. ...

Recommended for you

Study may explain failure of retinoic acid trials against breast cancer

July 25, 2017
Estrogen-positive breast cancers are often treated with anti-estrogen therapies. But about half of these cancers contain a subpopulation of cells marked by the protein cytokeratin 5 (CK5), which resists treatment—and breast ...

Physical activity could combat fatigue, cognitive decline in cancer survivors

July 25, 2017
A new study indicates that cancer patients and survivors have a ready weapon against fatigue and "chemo brain": a brisk walk.

Breaking the genetic resistance of lung cancer and melanoma

July 25, 2017
Researchers from Monash University and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC, New York) have discovered why some cancers – particularly lung cancer and melanoma – are able to quickly develop deadly resistance ...

New therapeutic approach for difficult-to-treat subtype of ovarian cancer identified

July 24, 2017
A potential new therapeutic strategy for a difficult-to-treat form of ovarian cancer has been discovered by Wistar scientists. The findings were published online in Nature Cell Biology.

Immune cells the missing ingredient in new bladder cancer treatment

July 24, 2017
New research offers a possible explanation for why a new type of cancer treatment hasn't been working as expected against bladder cancer.

Anti-cancer chemotherapeutic agent inhibits glioblastoma growth and radiation resistance

July 24, 2017
Glioblastoma is a primary brain tumor with dismal survival rates, even after treatment with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. A small subpopulation of tumor cells—glioma stem cells—is responsible for glioblastoma's ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.