Tuesday, 15 September 2015

A strong link between Bladder Cancer and Opium use in Iran

SPHPM’s Adjunct Research Fellow and Monash alumna, Dr Narges Khanjani has co-authored research that has found a strong link between the use of opium and the high occurrence of bladder cancer in the Iranian population, which was published in the Archives of Iranian Medicine journal. Dr Khanjani is now Head of the School of Public Health at Kerman Medical University in Iran. 

Bladder cancer (BC) is the third most common cancer in Iranian men and its incidence is increasing, especially among men from the Fars province in the south of Iran.

Dr Khanjani’s study was the first population-based case-controlled study in Iran to tackle this question, which was carried out in an individually matched manner, recruiting two neighbours with no diagnosis of bladder BC for every patient with BC from the Kerman cancer registry.

In the control group of participants without a diagnosis of bladder cancer, less than five per cent had a history of opium consumption, however in the BC group almost 22 per cent of cases reported a history of opium consumption.

The study found that opium consumption significantly increases the risk of BC and that cumulative consumption with tobacco as well as those with a longer history of opium consumption had a significantly increased risk of developing BC.

The research revealed that carcinogenicity of opium is affected by different factors, including daily dosage, duration of consumption, age, and the method of consumption.

The opium most commonly smoked or ingested is teryak (raw opium) and shireh (opium sap), however the study also sought to categorise other forms of opium such as sukhteh (burned opium) and heroin.

According to the U.N. World Drug Report for 2005, Iran has the highest proportion of opiate addicts in the world – almost three per cent of the population over age 15.

Recent statistics estimate that almost nine per cent of the general population in the Fars province are opium users.


The researchers have recognised opium as a major potential risk factor for bladder cancer in Iran and have concerns that the high consumption of opium in Iran will need to be addressed with prevention plans and policies to promote awareness in the community.

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