How to Reduce Oral Head and Neck Cancer Risks

Updated: Jul 13


Who is at risk


There are two substances that greatly increase the risk of developing head and neck cancer. The first is Tobacco. 85% of head and neck cancers are linked to tobacco use. The other is alcohol. Frequent alcohol consumption raises the risk of developing oral cancer.


Other risk factors include:

  1. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV): This virus, which is most often passed from person to person during sexual activity, is an increasingly common risk factor for some types of head and neck cancer.

  2. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV): Exposure to this virus, which is more commonly known as mononucleosis, or “mono” plays a role in the development of nasopharyngeal cancer.

  3. Gender: Men are two to three times more likely than women to develop head and neck cancer. The rate of these cancers in women, however, has been rising for decades.

  4. Age: People over 40 are at higher risk for head and neck cancer.

  5. Environmental or occupational hazards: Exposure to such inhalants as asbestos, wood dust, paint fumes and certain chemicals may increase a person’s risk of head and neck cancer.

  6. Poor nutrition or dental hygiene

  7. Marijuana use

  8. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): Reflux of the stomach acid into the upper airway and throat has been suggested as a factor of head and neck cancer.

What can you do

The most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of oral, neck and head cancer is stopping the use of all tobacco products. Whether you are a new smoker or you have been smoking for years, stopping will greatly reduce your risk. Other steps you can take are to avoid alcohol, get vaccinated for HPV and maintain proper hygiene, including proper care of dentures.


When to see a doctor if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it is important to see a doctor:

  1. Swelling or sores that do not heal (this is the most common symptom)

  2. Red or white patches in the mouth

  3. Lump, bump or mass in the head or neck area, with or without pain

  4. Persistent sore throat

  5. Frequent nose bleeds

  6. Difficulty breathing

  7. Double vision

  8. Numbness in the head or neck region

  9. Pain or difficulty chewing, swallowing or moving the jaw

  10. Blood in saliva

At ENT Specialists, we believe in a team approach to help cure patients with head and neck cancer. We work closely with our colleagues in radiation and medical oncology who can offer chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Depending on the stage of cancer, the treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination of these therapies.


Schedule an appointment today for a consultation.



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