• oral cancer;
  • oral potentially malignant disorders;
  • public awareness;
  • risk factors;
  • Sri Lanka

Amarasinghe HK, Usgodaarachchi US, Johnson NW, Lalloo R, Warnakulasuriya S. Public awareness of oral cancer, of oral potentially malignant disorders and of their risk factors in some rural populations in Sri Lanka. Community Dent Oral Epidemiol 2010; 38: 540–548. © 2010 John Wiley & Sons A/S

Abstract – Objective:  The aim of this study was to investigate the level of public awareness of oral cancer, of oral potentially malignant disorders (OPMD) and of risk factors for developing these diseases in a province of Sri Lanka, a country with one of the highest incidences of these diseases in the world.

Methods:  A cross-sectional community-based survey was carried out in Sabaragamuwa province by interviewing 1029 subjects above 30 years of age, over a 1-year period from November 2006.

Results:  The level of public awareness of oral cancer was 84%, but only 23% for OPMD. Awareness was especially poor in low socioeconomic groups. The majority of subjects were not aware of the symptoms of oral cancer and of OPMD. Thirty-two percent were unaware that chewing betel quid was a risk factor for these diseases, as were 65% for tobacco smoking and 81% for heavy consumption of alcohol. Overall, 76% were not aware of any of the dangers inherent in the frequent use of areca nut. The majority of smokers, betel quid chewers and alcohol consumers were not aware that their lifestyles were placing their long-term health at serious risk.

Conclusions:  Knowledge of oral cancer, OPMD and their associated risk factors was poor among this population, indicating an urgent need to implement public health education and promotion strategies.