Head and Neck Cancer (cont.)
In this Article
How common are head and neck cancers?
Head and neck cancers account for approximately 3 to 5 percent of all cancers in the United States. These cancers are more common in men and in people over age 50. It is estimated that about 39,000 men and women in this country will develop head and neck cancer in 2005.
What causes head and neck cancers?
Tobacco (including smokeless tobacco, sometimes called "chewing tobacco" or "snuff") and alcohol use are the most important risk factors for head and neck cancers, particularly those of the oral cavity, oropharynx, hypopharynx, and larynx. Eighty-five percent of head and neck cancers are linked to tobacco use. People who use both tobacco and alcohol are at greater risk for developing these cancers than people who use either tobacco or alcohol alone.
Other risk factors for cancers of the head and neck include the following:
Immigrants from Southeast Asia who use paan (betel quid) in the mouth should be aware that this habit has been strongly associated with an increased risk for oral cancer. Also, consumption of mate, a tea-like beverage habitually consumed by South Americans, has been associated with an increased risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and larynx.
People who are at risk for head and neck cancers should talk with their doctor about ways they can reduce their risk. They should also discuss how often to have checkups.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/15/2014
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