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Throat Cancer - What Are The Most Common Causes Of It?

Written and reviewed by
Dr. Dinesh Singh 90% (72 ratings)
MBBS, MD-Radio Therapy
Oncologist, Ghaziabad  •  33 years experience
Throat Cancer - What Are The Most Common Causes Of It?

Throat cancer is as common as breast cancer and more than prostate cancer. In cause of throat cancer, keep smoking as first cause followed by alcohol. 

It occurs when abnormally dividing cancerous cells form growth like tumors in the voice box, vocal cords & other parts of the throat like the tonsils, and the pharynx which is the hollow tube that runs from behind the nose to the top of the windpipe.

The common symptoms of throat cancer include coughing, trouble swallowing, hoarseness, and swollen lymph nodes. There are two primary types of throat cancers according to where they start in the throat- pharyngeal cancer and laryngeal cancerPharyngeal cancer forms in the pharynx while laryngeal cancer forms in the larynx or the voice box.

Causes of Throat Cancer
Recognizing potential signs of throat cancer in the early stages of the disease is not easy. Hence, it’s critical to know the causes and risk factors for developing this type of cancer in order to be able to diagnose it at a relatively early stage of the disease and prevent a fatality. Common risk factors and causes of throat cancer include:

  1. Gender – Men are up to five times more likely to get throat cancer as compared to women.
  2. Age - Now even young persons in their twenties and thirties are coming with throat cancer.
  3. Exposure to certain chemicals like Asbestos, Nickel, and Sulphuric acid fumes.

The common ‘lifestyle’ causes for throat cancer are smoking or chewing tobacco, as per WHO there is no minimum safe limit of alcohol, vitamin A deficiency due to a diet deficient in green vegetables, and infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV) which causes cervical cancer in women and occurs due to unsafe sex.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and poor dental hygiene are also some of the known causes.

The association of throat cancer with HPV infection, a sexually transmitted virus is very interesting. The Cancer Treatment Centers of America has stated that HPV infection is a risk factor for certain oropharyngeal throat cancers.

Cancer Research UK also warns that oral sex, especially with multiple partners, leads to oral cancers due to HPV infection. It further states that men are also more prone to get infected with HPV through oral sex than women and HPV infection is more common in men who have oral sex with multiple partners.

Apart from this, throat cancer has also been linked to other types of cancers like esophageal, lung or bladder. So, if you’ve been diagnosed with any of these, you are at greater risk of contracting throat cancer. These cancers also often have the same risk factors.

You can take a few steps to reduce your risk for throat cancer like stop smoking, reduce alcohol intake, maintain a healthy lifestyle – eat plenty of greens, reduce fat and salt intake, and lose excess weight by exercising regularly. You can also reduce your risk of HPV infection by limiting your sex partners and using condoms. Stop alcohol rather than reduce.

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