Close

Oral Salivary Gland Cancer

Causes of Oral Salivary Gland Cancer

As with most cancers, doctors can’t tell you with certainty what causes oral salivary gland cancer. It’s a combination of genetic predisposition and factors in your environment.3Petersen PE, Oral cancer prevention and control – The approach of the World Health Organization. Oral Oncol. 2008.

While many cancers in the head and neck are caused by exposure to alcohol and tobacco, salivary gland cancers do not seem to be associated with these bad habits. In most cases of salivary gland cancer, there is no clear cause; however, one factor that probably does increase the risk of developing a salivary gland cancer is radiation. This may be in the form of therapeutic radiation or exposure to radiation in the environment. There are a few other causes listed below that might be related as well, but the medical community has not reached agreement about them.

  • Radiation: Studies following survivors of the atomic bomb explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki have shown quite a significant increased risk for developing malignant salivary gland carcinomas after exposure to high levels of radiation. The risk is up to eleven times higher than in people not exposed to such a high level of radiation. There is also some evidence that patients treated with radiation for other tumors in the region of the head and neck are at an increased risk of developing malignant tumors in the salivary glands.

Recent studies have shown that patients who receive radioactive iodine (i.e., I-131) are also at increased risk of developing salivary gland cancers.4, Johansen C, Boice Jr JD, McLaughlin JK, Olsen JH. Cellular telephones and cancer—a nationwide cohort study in Denmark. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2001;93:203-7.5, Auvinen A, Hietanen M, Luukkonen R, Koskela RS. Brain tumors and salivary gland cancers among cellular telephone users. Epidemiology. 2002;13:356.6Atula T, Grenman R, Klemi P, et al. Human papillomavirus, Epstein-Barr virus, human herpes virus 8 and human cytomegalovirus involvement in salivary gland tumours. Oral Oncol. 1998;34:391-395.Dental X-rays may increase the risk of a malignant salivary gland tumor, as may exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Currently, there does not seem to be any support for microwaves or cellular telephones being associated with risks of cancer of the salivary glands.4, Johansen C, Boice Jr JD, McLaughlin JK, Olsen JH. Cellular telephones and cancer—a nationwide cohort study in Denmark. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2001;93:203-7.5Auvinen A, Hietanen M, Luukkonen R, Koskela RS. Brain tumors and salivary gland cancers among cellular telephone users. Epidemiology. 2002;13:356.

  • Viruses: While a few viruses have been said to possibly increase the risk of salivary gland cancer, the evidence is not overwhelming. Viruses such as HIV-1, HPV types 16 and 18, polyomavirus and Epstein-Barr might be related.6, Atula T, Grenman R, Klemi P, et al. Human papillomavirus, Epstein-Barr virus, human herpes virus 8 and human cytomegalovirus involvement in salivary gland tumours. Oral Oncol. 1998;34:391-395.7Sun EC, Curtis R, Melbye M, et al. Salivary gland cancer in the United States. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers.1999;Prev 8:1095-1100.
  • Workplace environment: Salivary gland cancer may be associated with substances found in some workplaces, including asbestos, rubber, nickel and various chemicals. Those who work in manufacturing, plumbing, hairdressing and the auto industry may be at increased risk.7, Sun EC, Curtis R, Melbye M, et al. Salivary gland cancer in the United States. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers.1999;Prev 8:1095-1100.8Horn-Ross PL, Ljung BM, Morrow M. Environmental factors and the risk of salivary gland cancer. Epidemiology. 1997:414-9.
  • Hormones: There is ongoing research as to whether hormone receptors are present in certain salivary gland cancers and how they might relate to cancer (as in breast cancer). However, the information is conflicting, and researchers don’t have clear information on this yet.
References

1 Kakarala K, Bhattacharyya N. Survival in oral cavity minor salivary gland carcinoma. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2010 Jul;143(1):122-6.

2 Referenced with permission from The NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®) for Head and Neck Cancers V.2.2016. © National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Inc 2016. All rights reserved. Accessed November 9, 2016. To view the most recent and complete version of the guideline, go online to www.NCCN.org.

3 Petersen PE, Oral cancer prevention and control – The approach of the World Health Organization. Oral Oncol. 2008.

4 Johansen C, Boice Jr JD, McLaughlin JK, Olsen JH. Cellular telephones and cancer—a nationwide cohort study in Denmark. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2001;93:203-7.

5 Auvinen A, Hietanen M, Luukkonen R, Koskela RS. Brain tumors and salivary gland cancers among cellular telephone users. Epidemiology. 2002;13:356.

6 Atula T, Grenman R, Klemi P, et al. Human papillomavirus, Epstein-Barr virus, human herpes virus 8 and human cytomegalovirus involvement in salivary gland tumours. Oral Oncol. 1998;34:391-395.

7 Sun EC, Curtis R, Melbye M, et al. Salivary gland cancer in the United States. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers.1999;Prev 8:1095-1100.

8 Horn-Ross PL, Ljung BM, Morrow M. Environmental factors and the risk of salivary gland cancer. Epidemiology. 1997:414-9.

9 Spiro RH, Thaler HT, Hicks WF, Kher UA, Huvos AH, Strong EW. The importance of clinical staging of minor salivary gland carcinoma. Am J Surg. 1991 Oct;162(4):330-6.

10 Morton DL, Wen DR, Foshag LJ, Essner R, Cochran A. Intraoperative lymphatic mapping and selective cervical lymphadenectomy for early-stage melanomas of the head and neck. J Clin Oncol. 1993;11:1751-6.

11 Civantos FJ, Zitsch RP, Schuller DE, Agrawal A, Smith RB, Nason R, Petruzelli G, Gourin CG, Wong RJ, Ferris RL, El Naggar A, Ridge JA, Paniello RC, Owzar K, McCall L, Chepeha DB, Yarbrough WG, Myers JN. Sentinel lymph node biopsy accurately stages the regional lymph nodes for T1-T2 oral squamous cell carcinomas: results of a prospective multi-institutional trial. J Clin Oncol. 2010 Mar 10;28(8):1395-400.

12 Koch WM, Choti MA, Civelek AC, Eisele DW, Saunders JR. Gamma probe-directed biopsy of the sentinel node in oral squamous cell carcinoma. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1998;124:455-9.

13 Shoaib T, Soutar DS, MacDonald DG, Camilleri IG, Dunaway DJ, Gray HW, McCurrach GM, Bessent RG, MacLeod TIF, Robertson AG. 2001. The accuracy of head and neck carcinoma sentinel lymph node biopsy in the clinically N0 neck. Cancer. 91:2077-2083.

14 Agulnik M, McGann CF, Mittal BB, Gordon SC, Epstein JB. Management of salivary gland malignancies: current and developing therapies. Oncol Rev. 2008;2:86-94.

15 Eveson JW, Auclair PL, Gnepp DR, et al. Tumors of the salivary glands: introduction. In: Barnes EL, Eveson JW, Reichart P, Sidransky D, editors. World Health Organization classification of tumours: pathology & genetics. Head and neck tumours. Lyon: IARCPress; 2005:220-1.

16 WHO histological classification of tumors of the salivary glands. World Health Organization. 2005.

17 Seethala RR. An update on grading of salivary gland carcinomas. Head Neck Pathol. 2009 March;3(1):69-77.

18 Douglas JG, Koh WJ, Austin-Seymour M, Laramore GE: Treatment of salivary gland neoplasms with fast neutron radiotherapy. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg.2003;129:944-948.

19 Rentschler R, Burgess MA, Byers R. Chemotherapy of malignant major salivary gland neoplasms. A 256–94.de in oralinked above experience. Cancer. 2006;40:619-24.

20 Suen JY, Johns ME. Chemotherapy for salivary gland cancer. The Laryngoscope. 2009;92:235-9.

21 Kakarala K, Bhattacharyya N. Survival in oral cavity minor salivary gland carcinoma. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2010 Jul;143(1):122-6.

22 Terhaard CHJ, et al. Salivary gland carcinoma: independent prognostic factors for locoregional control, distant metastases, and overall survival: results of the Dutch head and neck oncology cooperative group. Head & Neck. 2004;26(8):681-693.

23 Spiro, et al. Stage means more than grade in adenoid cystic carcinoma. The American Journal of Surgery. 1992;164(6):623-628.