Nun chai and kanger increase the risk of cancer in Kashmir
Today marks the World Cancer Day. Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in Jammu and Kashmir. The lung, throat, stomach, colon cancer is dominant in males, while cervical, breast, stomach and lung cancer is prominent in females. Stomach and lung cancer remain the two common cancers in both the genders, hence the most potent ones.
According to the available data, Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed an unprecedented increase in cases related to cancer during the last decade. The official data as of 2017 reveals that cancer cases rose by 87 per cent. From 2011 to 2107, 28,424 cancer cases were registered by government hospitals in Kashmir:
2011 – 3057 cases
2012 – 3288 cases
2013 – 3157 cases
2014 – 3940 cases
2015 – 4275 cases
2016 – 4976 cases
2017 – 5731 cases
Major causes of cancer include tobacco consumption, obesity, viral infection and radiation, lack of physical activity, environmental pollutants, excessive salt intake and genetic factors. Wait, what? Salt intake? We know excess of everything is terrible, but how can salt intake lead to cancer?
Salt commonly known as sodium chloride has been experimentally identified increasing the risk of cancer. A partly preventable public health problem, stomach cancer remains a global disease, and high salt intake is one of its major causes. It acts as an inflammatory agent of stomach cancer. High salt intake damages the stomach lining which secretes stomach acid and causes the chronic inflammation of stomach mucous membrane that eventually leads to the stomach cancer.
As mentioned earlier, Kashmir remains a relatively high prevalence zone for stomach cancer. Its incidence has been reported to have exceeded 40 per cent of all cancers in Kashmir, and it is the 5th most common cancer worldwide.
The foods we consume are primarily responsible for that. Nun chai is one such food that increases the risk of stomach cancer. They very prefix Nun means salt. It is the first beverage taken in the morning along with lawas -which further increases salt consumption. Besides, sodium bicarbonate, which has other side-effects, is added to give nun chai a pink colour.
Nun Chai is taken at least twice a day the daily consumption ranges from 200 to 250 ml. Most people like to take it at hot, which makes it more dangerous and it can cause thermal injury to the stomach walls.
Reducing the salt intake may reduce Helicobacter Pylori infection and therefore reduce the risk of stomach cancer. World Cancer Research Fund recommends that people should avoid salt preserved and keep the level of salt intake below 5 g/day-a level advised by WHO.
Apart from nun chai, there is one more carcinogenic item that we use on a daily basis during the winters: Kanger. The use of kanger in Kashmir mostly causes Kangere-cancer and as the name suggests it is most prevalent here only. This is one of the types of squamous-cell carcinoma of the skin, which is caused by ultraviolet radiations and the exposure of skin to heat and sunlight.
It occurs on the lower abdomen, inner thighs and legs due to the positioning of the kanger and the way we envelop ourselves over it. “Over time, the use of Kangri (sic)… to keep warm results in erythema abigne, a precancerous keratotic growth that “take the shape of superficial, serpiginous, reticular blackish brown coloured lesions.”1 Over time, the shape of cells gets distorted and the skin becomes itchy and brown. The consequential asymmetric growth of cells is the exhibition of kanger-cancer.
- “Recurrent Kangri cancer treated with external beam radiotherapy on a cobalt unit”. Indian Journal of Cancer. 45(3): 134–135.