People who use both tobacco and alcohol are at greater risk of developing these cancers than people who use either tobacco or alcohol alone (6–8).
Avoiding oral HPV infection may reduce the risk of HPV-associated head and neck cancers.However, it is not yet known whether the Food and Drug Administration-approved HPV vaccines Gardasil® and Cervarix® prevent HPV infection of the oral cavity, and neither vaccine has yet been approved for the prevention of oropharyngeal cancer.It has three parts: the nasopharynx (the upper part of the pharynx, behind the nose); the oropharynx (the middle part of the pharynx, including the soft palate [the back of the mouth], the base of the tongue, and the tonsils); the hypopharynx (the lower part of the pharynx).Larynx: The larynx, also called the voicebox, is a short passageway formed by cartilage just below the pharynx in the neck. It also has a small piece of tissue, called the epiglottis, which moves to cover the larynx to prevent food from entering the air passages.Cancers that are known collectively as head and neck cancers usually begin in the squamous cells that line the moist, mucosal surfaces inside the head and neck (for example, inside the mouth, the nose, and the throat).
These squamous cell cancers are often referred to as squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck.Industrial exposure to wood or nickel dust or formaldehyde is a risk factor for cancers of the paranasal sinuses and nasal cavity (21–23). Radiation to the head and neck, for noncancerous conditions or cancer, is a risk factor for cancer of the salivary glands (17, 24, 25). Infection with the Epstein-Barr virus is a risk factor for nasopharyngeal cancer (26) and cancer of the salivary glands (27, 28). Asian ancestry, particularly Chinese ancestry, is a risk factor for nasopharyngeal cancer (15, 16).The symptoms of head and neck cancers may include a lump or a sore that does not heal, a sore throat that does not go away, difficulty in swallowing, and a change or hoarseness in the voice.People who are at risk of head and neck cancers―particularly those who use tobacco―should talk with their doctor about ways that they may be able to reduce their risk.They should also discuss with their doctor how often to have checkups.Information specialists from NCI’s Cancer Information Service (CIS) can also help people find clinical trials for the prevention of head and neck cancers.