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Oral Cancer in the Northern Mariana Islands

Ajay Narayanan

Medical School Class of 2020

Ajay Narayanan
Globe showing Africa

Thanks to the global health department at UT Southwestern, I was able to travel abroad to the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands during my scholarly activity period. My experience was remarkably valuable in terms of the medical and societal cultural perspectives I gained. My mentors at UTSW (Dr. Mary Chang) and in Saipan (Dr. William Moss) were instrumental in ensuring that I would make the most of my time abroad, in addition to accomplishing valuable research.

Betel nut chewing is very common throughout the Pacific Islands, and contributes to higher rates of oral cavity cancer throughout this region. My projects through the global health program involved further characterizing this oral cancer burden in the Northern Mariana Islands, in addition to gauging perceptions of betel nut and oral cancer amongst the local Asian Pacific Islander (API) population.

Our findings were striking – betel nut use was prevalent among both adults and youth, oral cavity cancer contributed to 13% of cancer-related mortalities, and a vast majority (87%) of APIs did not know that the actual betel nut was a carcinogen.

Overall, our work laid a solid foundation for future public health efforts aimed at promoting awareness of betel nut carcinogenicity and reducing the associated oral cavity cancer burden.

– Ajay Narayanan, Medical School Class of 2020

Map showing the Northern Mariana Islands

Map showing the Northern Mariana Islands.

A coconut tree along the idyllic Northern Mariana islands beach

A coconut tree along the idyllic Northern Mariana islands beach.

The land meets the ocean in the Northen Mariana Islands

Exploring the Northern Mariana Islands.

Ocean view of there Northern Mariana Islands with a tree along the shoreline.

Ocean views on the Northern Mariana Islands.

A fiery sunset on the Northern Mariana Islands

A fiery sunset on the Northern Mariana Islands.