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Head and Neck Cancer Risk Factors

Moffitt doctor checking patient's throat

The two most prominent risk factors for most forms of head and neck cancer are tobacco use and alcohol consumption, particularly with regard to cancers affecting the oral cavity, throat and larynx. Risky tobacco use is not limited to smoking; it also includes chewing tobacco, paan and betel leaves (popular in Southeast Asia). Additionally, when the two main risk factors – tobacco and alcohol use – are both present, the likelihood of developing head or neck cancer is substantially increased.

Other risk factors that have been linked to head and neck cancer include:

  • Poor oral hygiene and missing teeth
  • Excessive consumption of preserved or highly salted foods, especially during childhood
  • Consumption of maté, a tea-like beverage customarily consumed in South America
  • Exposure to wood dust, nickel dust, formaldehyde, asbestos or certain synthetic fibers, which are hazards of certain occupations in the construction, metal, textile, ceramic, logging and food industries
  • Radiation treatment to the head or neck
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
  • Epstein-Barr virus infection

If your physician has determined that you may have an elevated risk of developing head or neck cancer, you can turn to the world-renowned experts in the Head and Neck Cancer Program at Moffitt Cancer Center. Our researchers and clinicians are continually evaluating how certain behaviors and attributes can influence the development of head and neck cancer, and our multispecialty team of experts provides individualized advice and guidance regarding its prevention, diagnosis and treatment. As a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center – the only one based in Florida – Moffitt’s extensive research efforts have received national acclaim, and our patients have opportunities to participate in exciting clinical trials and benefit from promising new treatments that are unavailable elsewhere.

If you’d like to learn more about head and neck cancer risk factors, the experts at Moffitt can help. Call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online. No referrals are required.