The profound oral cavity cancer burden in the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands: A global health opportunity

Ajay M. Narayanan, Andrey Finegersh, Mary P. Chang, Joanne Ogo, Ryan K. Orosco, William J. Moss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Purpose: Betel nut consumption contributes to higher rates of oral cavity cancer throughout Micronesia. The purpose of this study is to review local surveys and cancer data to further characterize these issues in the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Methods: Two commonwealth-wide health inquiries were reviewed: The Non-Communicable Diseases Survey (NCDS), 2016 and The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), 2013. Data pertaining to betel nut, tobacco and alcohol use was extracted. Relevant cancer data from the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation (CHC) of Saipan and the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) databases was assessed. Results: Betel nut chewing was reported by 43% of Asian Pacific Islander (API) adults, with 88% adding tobacco to the chew. Adults aged 20–30 had significantly higher rates of chewing relative to older groups (p <. 0001). Tobacco smoking and alcohol use were reported by 25% and 23% of adults, respectively. Betel nut chewing was reported by 33% of high school students. From 2007 to 2016, oral cavity cancers contributed to 9% of all cancer diagnoses and 13% of cancer-related mortalities. SEER data supported oral cavity cancer diagnoses at younger ages in APIs. Conclusion: These results demonstrate concerning trends regarding alcohol, tobacco and betel nut use in the CNMI. Betel nut use is prevalent among APIs of nearly all ages, with the majority adding tobacco to their chew. The available data suggests a drastic oral cavity cancer burden in the CNMI. Efforts should be made to evaluate for effective means of primary and secondary prevention in API regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102267
JournalAmerican Journal of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Medicine and Surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019


  • Betel nut
  • Micronesia
  • Oral cavity cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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