Causes of Throat Cancer

As with most cancers, doctors can’t tell you with certainty what causes throat cancer. It’s a combination of genetic factors and factors in your environment.

By far the most common factor contributing to throat cancer is using tobacco, particularly smoking it. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol also contributes to the risk of developing throat cancer.

  • Tobacco:Smoking cigarettes, cigars or pipes and using chewing tobacco greatly increase your chance of getting throat cancer.
  • Alcohol:Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol is also very strongly related to getting throat cancer. Moreover, if you both smoke and drink heavily, the risk more than doubles.

Other factors that can increase your chance of getting throat cancer include:

  • Exposure to radiation in the past:Being exposed to radiation as part of a natural disaster, treatment for another disease a long time ago or even through work can increase the chances of some throat cancers.
  • Viruses: The details of this are still being studied. Clearly, though, exposure to certain strains of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is associated with oropharynx cancer, and exposure to Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) is associated with nasopharynx cancer.
  • Genetic factors: This is important in all cancers, and the details are still being worked out. Genetics clearly plays a major role in nasopharyngeal cancer.
  • Certain foods:Deficiencies in some vitamins, poor oral hygiene and even salted fish (for nasopharyngeal cancer) have been associated with certain throat cancers.
  • Plummer-Vinson Syndrome(especially for hypopharyngeal and cervical esophageal cancer): This is a condition, more common in women, that is associated with low iron and low blood counts (anaemia), along with webs of tissues in the throat that cause difficulty with swallowing.
  • Asbestos exposure
  • A history of drinking poisons such as lye
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): Though GERD has not been proven to be a cause of throat cancers, multiple studies have shown an association between “acid reflux” and throat cancer.