Betel Nut and Susceptibility to Cancer

  • Rajesh N. SharanEmail author
  • Yashmin Choudhury


Betel nut is a widely masticated natural product, which is consumed by over 600 million people across the globe. The ancient habit of betel nut chewing, either as dry or raw/wet nut, in association with betel leaf and a host of region specific additives, including chewing tobacco, is believed to be an important etiological factor for human cancer. Alkaloids and their betel nut specific nitrosamine derivatives produced upon metabolic activation interact with DNA and other cellular targets to produce highly variable mutagenic, genotoxic, cytostatic, immunostatic and teratogenic effects. At molecular level the betel nut or its constituents strongly influence gene expression patterns, especially that of tumor suppressor genes. Structural damage to nucleus and mitochondria, etc. are also induced. The review dwells upon these aspects of betel nut induced carcinogenesis to show that genetic susceptibility to cancer through generations progressively increased due to exposure to betel nut.


Betel nut specific nitrosamine derivatives and alkaloids Mutagenic and genotoxic effects Tumor suppressor genes Susceptibility to oral cancer 



RNS acknowledges contributions of all research associates and scholars whose work has been cited in this review. Grants of UGC, CSIR, DST and ICMR, which supported different aspects of research embodied in this chapter, are also acknowledged. Part of the ongoing research is being carried out under a research scheme partly funded by the UPE-NEHU grant. YC was supported by a fellowship (NET-JRF/SRF) from the UGC and is currently working as a Lecturer, Department of Biotechnology, Assam University, Silchar, 788 011, India.


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© Springer Science+ Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Radiation and Molecular Biology Unit, Department of BiochemistryNorth-Eastern Hill UniversityShillongIndia

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