Head and Neck/Oral Cancers: Risk Factors

According to the National Cancer Institute, each year roughly 100,000 Americans are diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, nasal cavities, pharynx, larynx (voice box) and thyroid. Head, neck and oral cancers are the 6th most common form of cancer in the world.

Rates of head and neck cancer are nearly twice as high in men and are greatest in men over 50.

Smoking or use of any kind of tobacco (including chew or dip) is the leading cause of head, neck and oral cancer, along with excessive alcohol use. Other important factors include:

  • Environmental exposure to wood or nickel dust or asbestos
  • Plummer-Vinson syndrome (a disorder caused by nutritional deficiencies)
  • Exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)