Head and Neck Cancer Risk Factors

Although risk factors often influence the development of cancer, most do not directly cause cancer. Some people with several risk factors never develop the disease, while others with no known risk factors do. However, being aware of your risk factors and discussing them with your doctor will lead to more informed lifestyle and healthcare choices.
Several risk factors associated with head and neck cancer include:
  • Prolonged sun exposure
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), more commonly known as the virus that causes mononucleosis
  • Gender: Men are two to three times more likely than women to develop head and neck cancer. However, the rate of head and neck cancer in women has been rising for several decades.
  • Age: People over 40 are at higher risk for head and neck cancer.
  • Race: African Americans are more likely than Caucasians to develop certain types of cancer of the head and neck.
  • Poor oral/dental hygiene
  • Environmental/occupational inhalants: Exposure to asbestos, wood dust, paint fumes and certain chemicals may increase your risk of head and neck cancer.
  • Poor nutrition: A diet low in A and B vitamins can raise your risk of head and neck cancer.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and laryngopharyngeal reflux disease (LPRD)
  • Weakened immune system