Throat cancer causes and risk factors

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by
Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science at CTCA.

This page was updated on June 24, 2022.

As with many cancers, the risk of developing throat cancer increases with age, with most people being over the age of 65. Men are two to three times more likely than women to develop throat cancer in their lifetime.

Throat cancer risk factors

Risk factors differ depending on where the cancer grows in the throat.


Lack of fruits and vegetables: A diet low in fruits and vegetables may increase the likelihood of developing throat cancer.


Tobacco use: The use of cigarettes, pipes and/or cigars may increase the likelihood of developing throat cancer.

Alcohol use: Excessive use of alcohol may increase your throat cancer risk.

Other conditions

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection: Research has found that HPV infection is responsible for many cancers, including anal cancer, penile cancer and cervical cancer. Can HPV cause throat cancer? Research indicates that the HPV virus is responsible for rising rates of throat cancer, particularly among patients with oropharyngeal cancer.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): When acid moves from the stomach into the esophagus, acid reflux develops. Chronic acid reflux, or GERD, may increase throat cancer risk depending on its frequency and severity.

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV): This common virus is transmitted via saliva. Contracting EBV may increase the likelihood of developing throat cancer.

Next topic: What are the symptoms of throat cancer?

Expert cancer care

is one call away.
appointments in as little as 24 hrs.