Laryngeal Cancer Risk Factors
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What Are the Risk Factors for Laryngeal Cancer?
As with many cancers, the risk of developing laryngeal cancer increases with age. Men are more likely to develop laryngeal cancer than women, with most people being over the age of 65.
Additional risk factors for laryngeal cancer include:
- Race: Laryngeal cancer is more common among African Americans and whites than among Asians and Latinos.
- Tobacco Use: Tobacco use is the greatest risk factor for laryngeal cancer, and for all other head and neck cancers. Most people who get laryngeal cancer have a history of smoking or other tobacco use or prolonged exposure. The risk of cancer increases with the frequency of tobacco use. Long-term exposure to second-hand smoke may also be a risk factor for these types of cancers, although studies are not yet conclusive.
- Alcohol: Heavy drinkers are many times more likely to develop laryngeal cancer than are nondrinkers. Combined use of tobacco and alcohol increases the risk for these cancers multifold.
- Poor Nutrition: As with all head and neck cancers, poor nutrition may increase the risk of laryngeal cancer. This heightened risk may be due to vitamin deficiencies, which are common among people who abuse alcohol and may partially explain the increased risk for these cancers among heavy drinkers.
- Human Papilloma Virus Infection: Human papilloma viruses, or HPV, include about 100 similar viruses. Many HPVs cause warts, but some are involved in cancer. Most noteworthy, HPV is tied to the development of cervical cancer. More recently, HPV has been linked to oral cancer. HPV may also be a risk factor for some cancers of the hypopharynx. Estimates of the percentage of patients with laryngeal infected with the same HPVs range from 6 percent to 47 percent, but so far infection of this virus does not appear to be a direct factor in the development of laryngeal cancer.
- Weakened Immune System: People who have a weak immune system, which may be caused by diseases present at birth, AIDS or certain medicines, may be at greater risk for developing laryngeal cancers.
Genetic Syndromes: Some inherited genetic mutations, which cause different syndromes in the body, carry a high risk of laryngeal cancer. These include:
- Fanconi Anemia: This blood condition is caused by inherited abnormalities in several genes. Problems can begin at an early age and often lead to leukemia or aplastic anemia. People with Fanconi anemia have a higher risk of getting cancers of the throat.
- Dyskeratosis Congenita: This genetically linked syndrome can also cause aplastic anemia, and carries a very high risk of mouth and throat cancer occurring at an early age.
Unproven Risk Factors
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease: The back-up of acid from the stomach into the esophagus is called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. This syndrome is a known risk factor for esophageal cancer. Whether it also increases the risk of laryngeal cancer is currently being studied.
NOTE: Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer. Not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. If you think you may be at risk, you should discuss it with your doctor.
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