What causes throat cancer?

Although the specific cause of throat cancer is not known, several risk factors have been identified, including tobacco use, which is the strongest single risk factor for developing throat cancer, and alcohol use. Infection by human papilloma virus plays an important role in the development of genetic changes that initiate the development of cancer.

What are the risk factors for throat cancer?

A number of factors increase the risk of developing throat cancer. Not all people with risk factors will get throat cancer. Risk factors for throat cancer include:

  • Age over 50 years
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Chewing betel quid (paan), a popular stimulant in Southeast Asia
  • Diets low in vegetables and fruits
  • Drinking mate, a tea-like stimulant popular in South America
  • Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection
  • Exposure to wood dust, typically in the workplace
  • Human papilloma virus (HPV) infection
  • Male gender
  • Plummer-Vinson syndrome (condition related to chronic low levels of iron in which web-like tissue grows at the top of the esophagus)
  • Smoking or use of other tobacco products

Reducing your risk of throat cancer

You may be able to lower your risk of throat cancer by:

  • Avoiding betel quid (paan)
  • Eating plenty of vegetables and fruits
  • Quitting use of tobacco products, including cigarettes and smokeless tobacco
  • Reducing your alcohol intake
  • Using safety precautions when exposed to wood dust

What is throat cancer?

Most throat cancers are squamous cell carcinomas that start in the lining tissues of the throat. Cancers can occur in any part of the throat, including the nasopharynx, the area behind the nasal cavity; the oropharynx, the area behind the mouth; and the hypopharynx, where the throat branches into the trachea and esophagus.

Symptoms of throat cancer may include a lump or bump in th... Read more about throat cancerintroduction


What are the symptoms of throat cancer?

Symptoms of throat cancer can include nonhealing sores or pain in the throat or ear. They can also include symptoms related to the tumor’s interference with normal throat function.

Common symptoms of throat cancer

Common symptoms of throat cancer include:

  • Cough that gets more severe over time
  • Coughing up blood (hemoptysis)
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How is throat cancer treated?

Treatment of throat cancer begins with seeking regular medical care throughout your life. Regular medical care allows a health care professional to provide early screening tests that can detect cancer in its most treatable stages. Regular medical care also provides an opportunity for your health care professional to promptly evaluate symptoms and your risks for developing throat cancer.
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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