By Lisa Lahari-Williams - email@example.com
Papua New Guinea now has the world's highest rate of malignant mouth cancer, which experts say it at least partly due to the once sacred custom of chewing buai or betel nut.
Mouth cancer is PNG's highest killer of males and the third highest cause of death for women.
Australian oral surgeon Dr. Barry Reed says children as young as eight years old are habitual betel chewers.
"It's become an epidemic now. 98% of people with mouth cancer chew betel nut," he says.
"Now it's actually in children as young as eight years old that are chewing betel nut regularly, and it's become a disease of young people instead of old or mature people."
Betel nut. Photo/ Radii China.
New research shows eight in every ten people in Papua New Guinea chew betel nut.
Dr. Reed says urgent funding is needed to teach trainee dentists to spot mouth cancer symptoms.
*Preview image: ABC News*