Larynx Cancer (cont.)
In this Article
Cancer begins in cells, the building blocks that make up tissues. Tissues make up the larynx and the other organs of the body.
Normal cells grow and divide to form new cells as the body needs them. When normal cells grow old or get damaged, they die, and new cells take their place.
Sometimes, this process goes wrong. New cells form when the body doesn't need them, and old or damaged cells don't die as they should. The buildup of extra cells often forms a mass of tissue called a growth or tumor.
Tumors in the larynx can be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer). Benign tumors are not as harmful as malignant tumors:
Laryngeal cancer cells can spread by breaking away from the tumor in the larynx. They can travel through lymph vessels to nearby lymph nodes. They can also spread through blood vessels to the lungs, bones, or liver. After spreading, laryngeal cancer cells may attach to other tissues and grow to form new tumors that may damage those tissues.
When you get a diagnosis of laryngeal cancer, it's natural to wonder what may have caused the disease. Doctors can't always explain why one person gets laryngeal cancer and another doesn't.
However, we do know that people with certain risk factors may be more likely than others to develop laryngeal cancer. A risk factor is something that may increase the chance of getting a disease.
Smoking tobacco causes most laryngeal cancers. Heavy smokers who have smoked tobacco for a long time are most at risk for laryngeal cancer.
Also, people who are heavy drinkers are more likely to develop laryngeal cancer than people who don't drink alcohol. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol that a person drinks. The risk of laryngeal cancer increases even more for people who are heavy drinkers and heavy smokers. However, not everyone who drinks or smokes heavily will develop the disease.
Many other possible risk factors are under study. For example, researchers are studying whether an HPV infection in the throat may increase the risk of laryngeal cancer. HPV is a group of viruses that can infect the body. Another area of research is whether reflux (the backward flow of liquid from the stomach to the throat) may increase the risk of laryngeal cancer.