Laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers are two of the different types of throat cancers. They are named depending on the site from which they arise.
Laryngeal cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells that starts in the larynx or voice box.
- The larynx is a hollow tube-like structure present in the neck right behind Adam’s apple. It helps you breathe and contains the vocal cords that enable you to speak.
- The part of the larynx above the vocal cords is called supraglottis, the part containing the vocal cords is called glottis and the part below them is called subglottis.
- About 60 percent of laryngeal cancers start from the glottis.
- About 35 percent of laryngeal cancers arise from the supraglottic area, whereas just about five percent begin from the subglottic region.
Hypopharyngeal cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells that starts in the hypopharynx.
- The throat or pharynx is a muscular tube-like structure that is divided into three parts.
- The hypopharynx (also called the laryngopharynx) is the lowermost part of the pharynx that lies right behind the larynx and above the esophagus.
Because the larynx and hypopharynx lie close to each other, laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers are generally discussed together. Both of these cancers come under the category of head and neck cancers.
Other types of throat cancers
- Nasopharyngeal cancer: It is the uncontrolled growth of cells that starts in the nasopharynx, which is the topmost part of the pharynx. The nasopharynx connects the nose to the throat allowing the passage of air through it.
- Oropharyngeal cancer: It is the uncontrolled growth of cells that starts in the oropharynx, which is the middle part of the pharynx. It connects the mouth to the throat and allows the passage of food, fluid, and air.
10 causes of laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers
The exact cause of laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers is not known. These cancers arise when there is a change or abnormality in the genes (DNA) of a cell in the larynx or hypopharynx. Such an abnormal cell divides uncontrollably, forming more cells of its kind, and leading to cancer formation.
Certain conditions may increase the risk of hypopharyngeal and laryngeal cancers, such as:
- Tobacco consumption (including secondhand or passive smoke)
- Alcohol use
- Human papillomavirus infection
- Being obese or overweight
- Certain nutritional deficiencies
- Genetic conditions, such as Fanconi anemia or dyskeratosis congenita
- Occupational exposure to certain toxic chemicals, such as wood dust, petroleum byproducts, paint fumes, and asbestos
- Male gender (men are about five times more likely to get laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancer than women)
- Older age
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
How can you prevent laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers?
There is no definitive way to prevent laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers.
You can, however, reduce your risk by taking the following measures:
- Avoid smoking and other forms of tobacco consumption
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption
- Limit exposure to harmful chemicals by wearing proper protective gear and ensuring adequate ventilation at the workplace
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Ensure proper nutrition by having a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods
- Get human papillomavirus vaccination
American Cancer Society. Risk Factors for Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancers. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/laryngeal-and-hypopharyngeal-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html
Quon H. Hypopharyngeal Cancer. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1375268-overview
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