Objectives: To evaluate the awareness of oral cancer, its risk factors and to estimate the prevalence of riskfactors in a high-risk semi-urban population in India.
Methods: A questionnaire-based survey was carried outby house-to-house interview on a single day by 120 health volunteers. The data were analyzed using SPSS 11.0software for links between prevalence of risk factors and oral cancer awareness, as well as other confoundingvariables.
Results: A total of 1885 persons participated in the survey. Of the surveyed population, 86% hadheard about oral cancer and 32% knew someone with oral cancer. Sixty-two percent of the subjects correctlyidentified the causes; this included 77% of the subjects who identifying smoking, 64% alcohol and 79% panchewing as a cause of oral cancer. More than 42% believed that poor oral health could lead to oral cancer and53% thought that oral cancer is an incurable disease. Forty percent of males and 14% females had one or morehigh-risk habits. It was observed that the awareness was proportional to the education level (p<0.001) andinversely proportional to the prevalence of risk factor habits (p<0.001) . Eighty-two percent of the smokers,75% of the tobacco chewers and 66% of those who consumed alcohol were aware that their habits could lead tooral cancer.
Conclusions: Overall, the awareness of oral cancer in this high-risk population was satisfactory,though certain gaps exist, pointing to a need for targeted health education and risk factor cessation counseling.