A geographical pathology survey of a large area in central Africa is described and a contrast is recognized between neighbouring areas with apparently many and apparently few cases of oesophageal cancer. This distribution is compared first with other known areas of high and low incidence in sub-Saharan Africa and then with the drinking of indigenous types of distilled spirits. A significant order of spatial correlation is shown between the geographical pattern of the disease and the drinking of sugar-based alcoholic spirit in central Africa. Samples of spirits from eastern Zambia, central Kenya, and the Transkei, although prepared in apparently dissimilar utensils, were all shown to be contaminated in varying degree with zinc. Nitrosamine-like compounds in native spirits were also reported in all these areas.
The need for a geographical survey of indigenous drinking habits in Africa is illustrated. Since legislation against distilling is ineffective, a simple means of excluding carcinogenic compounds from illicit spirits should be ascertained and widely promulgated at village level.
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