Throat Cancer Risk Factors
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What Are the Risk Factors for Throat Cancer?
Men are two to three times more likely than women to develop throat cancer in their lifetime.
Other throat cancer risk factors that may increase the likelihood of developing throat cancer include:
- Tobacco Use: The use of cigarettes, pipes and cigars all increase the likelihood of developing throat cancer.
- Alcohol Use: Excessive use of alcohol can increase your throat cancer risks.
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection: New research has found that HPV infection is responsible for rising rates of throat cancer, in particular oropharyngeal cancer. 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. HPV is also a risk factor for oral and oropharyngeal cancers. About 25 percent of patients with these cancers are infected with the same HPVs as are seen in with cervical cancer. In particular, there is a strong link between HPV-16 and oropharyngeal cancer. HPV appears to be a more serious risk factor for oropharyngeal cancer than for oral cavity cancers. People with oral cancers linked to HPV tend to not be smokers or drinkers, and usually have a good prognosis. Typically, HPV infections in the mouth and throat do not produce any symptoms, and only a small percentage of these infections develop into cancer. Visit our Oral Cancer Program to learn more.
- Lack of Fruits and Vegetables: A diet low in fruits and vegetables can increase the likelihood of developing throat cancer.
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): When acid leaks from the stomach into the esophagus, it causes acid reflux. Chronic acid reflux is called GERD, and increases throat cancer risk depending on the frequency and severity of the acid reflux.
- Virus Exposure: Certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) and exposure to the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) may cause throat cancers.
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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