Alcohol blamed for most throat cancers in Western Kenya – MTRH

By Gatonye Gathura

Half of throat cancers in Western Kenya are caused by alcohol particularly busaa and chang’aa, according to a study at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret.

 “Alcohol consumption, particularly of busaa and chang’aa, contributes to half of the esophageal cancer burden in Western Kenya,” says the study published in the 17th August 2018 in the International Cancer Research journal.

People taking more than two drinks of chang’aa a day while also using tobacco are at the greatest risk of developing throat cancer.

For more than two decades, local and foreign researchers linked to MTRH and Tenwek Mission Hospital have been hunting for the cause of unusually high rates of throat cancer in the region.

Alcohol has been mentioned in half a dozen studies with other suggestions being the compound selenium in local soils and ‘mursik’ the traditional Kalenjin fermented milk.

Other culprits who have come up in several research papers include, regular drinking of very hot tea, aflatoxin in grains and domestic firewood smoke.

However the current study led by Dr Diana Menya of Moi University, Eldoret may be the first to blame alcohol for the largest burden of throat cancers in the region.

Earlier studies at both MTRH and the Tenwek hospital showed throat cancer as the most prevalent cancer attended to at the two facilities.

Doctors in these hospitals report what they say is a unique development of the cancer not noted anywhere else.

EC patients around Bomet and Eldoret areas are getting the disease when they are much younger than those in other parts of the country or the world.

Cancers in this Rift Valley region of Eldoret and Tenwek are the only people getting throat cancer at age 10 or earlier with the prevalence reaching up to 10 per cent before ages 30.

The earlier study showed Tenwek to have the youngest throat cancer victims followed by Eldoret with cases in the two areas peaking by age 50.

Kenya belongs to the African Esophageal Cancer Corridor (ESCC) which has the highest incidence of throat cancer in the world.

The corridor includes Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and parts of South Africa while other areas with high cancer incidence are China and Iran.

A why report published in June by local and international cancer experts comparing the incidence of throat cancer globally says the disease is now highest in Kenya.

The news study: ‘Traditional and commercial alcohols and esophageal cancer risk in Kenya,” is available here: https://doi.org/10.1002/ijc.31804

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