KAMPALA: The Ministry of Health has revealed that the Uganda Cancer Institute receives about fifty-six (56) cases of liver cancer annually resulting from the consumption of food contaminated with aflatoxins.
This shocking revelation was made by State Minister for Primary Health Margaret Muhanga while appearing before Parliament’s joint Committee on Health and Agriculture on Wednesday, which is investigating cases of foods contaminated with aflatoxin in Uganda.
Ms. Muhanga said that on average, the cancer institute receives between 170 and 200 liver cancer patients per year, but between 48 and 56 of these are a result of aflatoxin exposure.
She added that the state spends over three billion shillings (Shs3b) to treat two hundred liver cancer patients, with each patient’s treatment costing Shs15.6 million annually.
This figure, however, she says, does not cover the cost of the investigation and supportive treatment.
What are aflatoxins and how do you prevent them?
Aflatoxins are cancer-causing toxins (or poisons) found in molds that contaminate foods such as maize, beans, corn, rice, soybeans, groundnuts, and different nuts. These molds are more common in warmer and tropical regions, such as countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, where poor storage conditions may result in mold formation.
The risk of liver cancer is much higher among individuals who have long-term exposure to aflatoxins and who are chronically infected with Hepatitis B or C.
Controlling or reducing infection by regulating the factors that increase the risk of aflatoxins contamination in the field contributes extensively to their management.
Management practices that reduce the incidence of aflatoxins contamination in the field include timely planting, maintaining optimal plant densities, proper plant nutrition, avoiding drought stress, controlling other plant pathogens, weeds, and insect pests, and proper harvesting and post-harvest handling in the form of storage and exposure to moisture, which go a long way in preventing the formation of molds in the grains.