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Throat Cancer Causes

Doctor explaining cancer causes to patient with tablet computerIn regards to what causes throat cancer, researchers have identified several risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing the disease. Some of these risk factors, such as smoking, have a very strong correlation with throat cancer, while others play a more limited role. Potential throat cancer causes include:

  • Regular use of tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco, all of which can introduce carcinogens (cancer-causing toxins) into the body
  • Moderate to heavy alcohol use (defined as more than one drink per day)
  • Having human papilloma virus (HPV), which can cause healthy cells in areas such as the base of the tongue or the tonsils to become abnormal
  • Having Fanconi anemia or dyskeratosis congenita, inherited genetic defects than can make DNA more prone to cancerous changes
  • Repeated exposure to asbestos, paint fumes, wood dust, or other occupational carcinogens, which can cause significant scarring and damage to the tissues of the throat when ingested
  • Having gastroesophageal reflux disease, which can cause repeated inflammation and irritation to the tissues in the esophagus and throat

Researchers are currently working to gain a better understanding of how these risk factors actually cause throat cancer. Oncologists already know that throat cancer develops when cellular DNA is damaged so that healthy cells are no longer programmed to divide and die in an orderly manner. However, studies are still being conducted to determine how specific carcinogens cause these cancerous DNA changes, as well as how these changes can potentially be prevented.

For a physician referral to a ENT cancer specialist, please use our PhysicianFinder tool or call (813) 844-2200.