What Are the Causes of Throat Cancer?

A. Pasbjerg

There are a variety of factors thought to be causes of throat cancer. People who smoke or use chewing tobacco are often susceptible to the disease, as are those who have consistent acid reflux. Exposure to the human papillomavirus, or HPV, in the throat may increase the likelihood that it will develop. Those who are exposed to certain chemicals or asbestos fibers are also more likely to be at risk. Other factors often tied to the development of throat cancer include age, excessive alcohol use, and poor diet.

Cigarette smoking is a common risk factor for throat cancer.
Cigarette smoking is a common risk factor for throat cancer.

Perhaps the most common known of the causes of throat cancer is tobacco use. Those who consistently inhale smoke by using tobacco products like cigarettes, pipe tobacco, or cigars are especially at risk. Use of smokeless products like chewing tobacco may also lead to throat cancer.

Cancer of the larynx is one type of throat cancer.
Cancer of the larynx is one type of throat cancer.

Another of the potential causes of throat cancer is acid reflux. Gastroesophogeal reflux disease, or GERD, is a condition which causes sufferers to have chronic reflux of stomach acid into their throats, leading to damage of the cells there. Those damaged cells may have an increased chance of developing into a specific type of cancer called adenocarcinoma.

A lifetime of eating fresh produce may help to prevent throat cancer.
A lifetime of eating fresh produce may help to prevent throat cancer.

Those whose throat tissues are exposed to the human papillomavirus may also be apt to develop throat cancer. This virus, which is typically sexually transmitted, is associated with other cancers, such as cervical cancer, as well. People may get it in their throats if they engage in unprotected oral sex with a partner who has the virus.

Oral sex can spread HPV, or human papillomavirus, to the throat, increasing the risk of cancer in the infected area.
Oral sex can spread HPV, or human papillomavirus, to the throat, increasing the risk of cancer in the infected area.

Exposure to certain types of substances is another of the causes of throat cancer. People who come in frequent contact with asbestos are often susceptible. Some varieties of chemicals, like nickel or sulfuric acid, which certain types of workers may come in contact with for their jobs, also increase the chances of getting throat cancer.

Exposure to certain chemical substances can cause throat cancer.
Exposure to certain chemical substances can cause throat cancer.

Several other factors have also been known to contribute to the development of throat cancer. Men are significantly more likely to get the disease than women, and people over 55 are more at risk than younger people. Those who drink large quantities of alcohol often tend to get the disease, particularly if they combine drinking with smoking. A poor diet, lacking in certain nutrients and low in fruits and vegetables, has also been known to contribute to throat cancer. Consistent poor dental hygiene is thought to also put a person at risk.

People who smoke cigars on a regular basis are at an increased risk for developing throat cancer.
People who smoke cigars on a regular basis are at an increased risk for developing throat cancer.
Coughing up blood and persistent sore throat are signs of throat cancer.
Coughing up blood and persistent sore throat are signs of throat cancer.
Smoking pipe tobacco can put a person at increased risk for throat cancer.
Smoking pipe tobacco can put a person at increased risk for throat cancer.

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