Main Article Content
This paper attempts to review epidemiological studies of oral cancer and precancer in Malaysia. The defmitions of prevalence, incidence, risk habits and oral cancer and precancers were discussed to better understand' the different types of studies conducted, which would be important in making comparisons between studies. Currently, epidemiological data on oral cancer in Malaysia are sketchy. The only incidence data for oral cancer in Malaysia was reported by Hirayama in 1966, 35 years ago. He estimated that 3.1 new cases per 100,000 population were diagnosed for the year 1963. A number of histopathological data of oral and maxillofacial biopsies were reported. Oral cancer accounted for one-fifth of all oral biopsies. A national study on oral mucosal lesions in Malaysia carried out in 1993/4 reported that there was a variation seen in the occurrence of oral premalignancy among the ethnic groups. The Indians and the indigenous people of Sabah and Sarawak were identified as high risk groups for oral cancer and precancer. It was also observed that both of the ethnic groups chewed betel quid. In conclusion, the epidemiological studies have provided useful data, which may be used in planning for future oral health programmes and research towards enhancing Malaysia's on-going effort in preventing the occurrence of these diseases.