`Awareness today, cure tomorrow’: Kangri cancer records sharp drop in Kashmir

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Srinagar: Amid heightened use of electric gadgets, Kangri cancer cases have decreased significantly in Kashmir.

Kangri cancer is a type of Squamous Cell Carcinoma that occurs due to the excessive usage of firepots in Kashmir. Kangri, also known as Kangaer, is an earthen pot woven around with wicker. People place smoldering charcoal in the earthen pot and place it under the pheran (long loose gown) to keep themselves warm during winters.

Head, Department of Radiation Oncology at Sher-I-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences Soura, Srinagar, Dr. Nazir Ahmad Khan told the Kashmir Monitor that skin cancer is not as widespread in Kashmir.

“It has decreased recently. Three decades ago, it was extremely widespread here. We could see over 100 cases annually. Less than 20 cases of this kind of cancer came for treatment in the past year,” he said.

He claimed that exposure to Kangri throughout childhood is the primary cause of this particular type of cancer. “The Kangri’s temperature causes skin irritation. If it is not addressed on time, it goes on with multiple changes year after year and eventually results in Kangri cancer,” he continued.

Medical professionals advise not to disregard the early symptoms. Doctors say if someone detects erythema ab igne (EAI), a coetaneous rash related to chronic long-term heat exposure under the level of heat required for thermal burns, they should immediately stop using the Kangri otherwise it can lead to squamous cell carcinoma.

“Awareness has played a major role in the decrease of the cases in Kashmir. Additionally, most people now use electric appliances for heating purposes instead of Kangri,” said Dr. Nazir.

A consultant dermatologist at Jawahar Lal Nehru Memorial (JLNM) hospital, Dr. Shahab-ud-din told the Kashmir Monitor that even though the number of Kangri cancer cases these days is not particularly high, people should nonetheless avoid using firepots excessively.

“People need to avoid keeping the Kangri very close to their bodies. They should keep an eye on body parts like their thighs and abdomen that are particularly vulnerable to it and see a doctor right away if they have any irritation from it,” he said.

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