• case-control study;
  • epidemiology, oral;
  • mawa;
  • mouth, diseases;
  • precancer;
  • submucous fibrosis, oral

A case-control study to elucidate the etiology of oral submucous fibrosis was conducted in Bhavnagar, Gujarat. Sixty consecutively arriving oral submucous fibrosis patients at a dental clinic were selected as cases. An equal number of controls matched for age, sex, religion and socioeconomic status were selected from individuals who did not exhibit any oral mucosal lesion or condition. Among cases, 98% chewed areca nut regularly in one form or the other whereas among controls 35% chewed areca nut, giving an overall relative risk of 109.6. Areca nut chewing was practiced most commonly in the form of mawa: a mixture containing mainly areca nut (over 90% by weight), some tobacco, and a few drops of lime. Mawa chewers and those who chewed mawa along with other chewing habits showed very high relative risks. The relative risks increased with increase in the frequency as well as the duration of chewing habits. In a bivariate analysis the effect of frequency and duration of chewing appeared to be multiplicative. The present findings confirm areca nut as the most important etiologic factor in oral submucous fibrosis.