The tribal populations throughout India have remained socially and culturally alienated from mainstream Indian society until developmental and conservation activities in tribal areas forced interactions between them. Head and neck cancer is a major public health problem among Paniya tribes, a marginalized tribal group in Kerala state, South India. Previous studies have documented a high prevalence of tobacco use among Paniya Tribals in Wayanad. However, little is known about their correlation exists between tobacco habit and head and neck cancer.The aim of this study was to evaluate the head and neck cancer among non chewing and chewing tobacco Paniya tribes.
A cross sectional survey was done among 688 nonsmoking and 483 smoking Paniya tribal populations of Wayanad District, India from January 2014 to June 2014 after approval from the Institutional ethical committee. Information on smoking status, type of tobacco smoked, quantity of tobacco smoked, and duration of tobacco smoking was collected from cases and controls using a questionnaire.
In this study head and neck cancer was found to be far more prevalent among chewing Paniya tribes than among the non chewing Paniya tribes. (P < 0.0001). The prevalence of oral cancer was found to be 6% amongst chewers. This was much higher than the 0% found among the non chewers. The prevalence of pre malignant lesion on head and neck region was found to be 37% amongst chewers and 3% found among the non chewers. Among the tobacco chewers a statistically significant relationship was observed between head and neck cancer and poor access to health care (P< 0.001).
The present study demonstrates gross disparities in head and neck cancer among chewing and nonchewing Paniya tribes. There is an urgent need to develop and implement culturally appropriate awareness raising activities to target tobacco habit to support the efforts to control head and neck cancer in this community.
Clinical trial identification
All authors have declared no conflicts of interest.