Study links poor storage of cereals to cervical cancer

14Aug 2019
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Study links poor storage of cereals to cervical cancer

A RECENTLY published study has linked consumption of food made from contaminated cereals including maize which is used to prepare meal popular in East Africa, ugali, to cervical cancer.

The study published last Thursday in the Open Forum Infectious Diseases (OFID) journal revealed that high aflatoxin concentrations in blood in women increased the likelihood of cancer-causing Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) strains.

About 86 women from 285 attending a cervical cancer screening programme at Kenya’s Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in 2015 and 2016 were recruited as case studies. Out the 86, 49 or 57 per cent tested positive for aflatoxins.

The prevalence of the HPV was found to be high among the women who also tested positive for the aflatoxin.

Aflatoxin in maize is often caused by bad storage and handling. Maize millers are now being called upon to practice better food handling practices. All cereal and foodstuff handlers have also been encouraged to adopt zero aflatoxin levels. This comes after a study showed that milk sold in Nairobi and its environs also contained aflatoxins.

As the disease takes in toll on Kenyans, the government remains adamant as to declaring it a national disaster.

Ugali  is the most common staple starch featuring in the local cuisines of the African Great Lakes region and Southern Africa. When ugali is made from another starch, it is usually given a specific regional name.

It is sometimes known as nsima, ngima, obusuma, kimnyet, nshima, mieliepap, phutu, sadza, kwon and other names. Nsima is sometimes made from other flours, such as millet or sorghum flour, and is sometimes mixed with cassava flour. It is cooked in boiling water or milk until it reaches a stiff or firm dough-like consistency.