Laryngeal Cancer

Causes of Laryngeal Cancer

As with most cancers, doctors can’t tell you with certainty what causes laryngeal cancer. It’s a combination of genetic factors and factors in your environment.

By far the most common factor contributing to laryngeal cancer is using tobacco, particularly smoking it. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol also contributes to the risk of developing cancer of the larynx.

Risk factors that can increase your chance of getting larynx cancer include:

  • Tobacco: Smoking cigarettes, cigars or pipes and using chewing tobacco greatly increase your chance of getting a laryngeal cancer.
  • Alcohol: Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol is also very strongly related to getting laryngeal cancer. Moreover, if you both smoke and drink heavily, the risk more than doubles.
  • Exposure to radiation in the past: Being exposed to radiation as part of a natural disaster, treatment for another disease a long time ago or even through work can increase the chances of some laryngeal cancers.

Other factors that have been associated with developing cancer of the larynx include:

  • Smoking marijuana
  • Possibly second-hand smoke
  • History of juvenile HPV infection (called recurrent respiratory papillomatosis, or RRP): This is an infection in children that leads to recurrent warts in the airway. Children with this problem require frequent surgeries to prevent the warts from blocking the airway. Fortunately, in most cases the problem gets much less severe after puberty. Rarely, these patients can develop squamous cell carcinoma associated with the RRP.
  • Exposure to metal, plastics, paint, wood dust and asbestos at work
  • Plummer-Vinson Syndrome (especially for hypopharyngeal and cervical esophageal cancer): This is a condition, more common in women, that is associated with low iron and low blood counts (anemia), along with webs of tissues in the throat that cause difficulty with swallowing.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): Though GERD has not been proven to be a cause of throat cancers, multiple studies have shown an association between “acid reflux” and throat cancer.

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