Head and Neck Cancer Causes

While the exact causes of head and neck cancer are not clear, the condition has been linked to specific risk factors. Cancers of the head and neck most commonly originate in the cells that make up the surface (epithelium) of these structures. These cells, known as squamous cells, undergo changes that can cause unusually fast reproduction and ultimately result in a tumor that may or may not be malignant. Head and neck cancers can affect a number of areas, such as the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, and salivary glands.

Generally, the risk factors associated with cancer of these structures involves chronic irritation, which is most commonly caused by tobacco use. The carcinogens present in tobacco – even in smokeless products – are known to cause mutations in the squamous cells over time that can result in cancerous lesions. Other sources of chronic irritation that may cause cancerous tumors to form include:

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Human papilloma virus (HPV)
  • Exposure to certain types of chemicals
  • Radiation exposure
  • Poor diet

For patients who have been diagnosed with a cancer of the head or neck, Tampa General Hospital’s team of cancer specialists can develop comprehensive treatment plans. Our goal is to provide our patients with the greatest odds for a successful recovery, which is why we utilize the most advanced technologies and tailor our approach to each individual’s unique circumstances, taking into account such factors as medical history, age, and overall health.

For a physician referral, please call (813) 844-2200.