Larynx Cancer (Throat Cancer)

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

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What causes throat cancer?

Although it is not clear exactly what causes throat cancers, the cancerous cells develop when genetic mutations allow the cells to grow uncontrollably to form tumors (masses of cancer cells) that may metastasize (spread) to other areas in the body. Some of the factors that can lead to genetic mutations in the cells of the throat include cigarette smoking, infections with the human papillomavirus (HPV), and exposure to toxic substances like asbestos or large quantities of alcohol.

What are the risk factors for throat cancer?

Some of the risk factors for throat cancer are related to lifestyle. For example, individuals can increase the risk of such cancers by smoking or using other tobacco products, chewing betel nuts (a common practice by South Asians), drinking excess alcohol, and consuming insufficient vitamin A. Exposure to asbestos, poor dental hygiene, and especially exposure to HPV are also risk factors. HPV exposure is significant because about 50% to 90% of squamous cell carcinomas, the most common type of throat cancers, have been linked to HPV infections that can be acquired with oral sex. In addition, being male and/or having an African-American heritage also increases risk.

What are the types of larynx (throat) cancer?

The types of larynx (throat) cancers are as follows:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma (most common type of throat cancer)
  • Adenocarcinoma (cancer of glandular cells that release mucus, occurs infrequently)
  • Other types that may occur rarely are as follows:
    • Lymphoepithelioma
    • Mucoepidermoid carcinoma
    • Spindle cell carcinoma
    • Verrucous cancer
    • Lymphoma
    • Undifferentiated carcinoma
    • Sarcoma
    • Melanoma
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/30/2016

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