Hypopharyngeal cancer

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Risk factors for hypopharyngeal cancer

A risk factor is something that increases the risk of developing cancer. It could be a behaviour, substance or condition. Most cancers are the result of many risk factors. Smoking tobacco is the most important risk factor for hypopharyngeal cancer. The risk is even higher if you also drink alcohol.

Hypopharyngeal cancer is more common in men than women. Men may have higher rates of this cancer because they are more likely than women to use tobacco and alcohol in heavy amounts. Hypopharyngeal cancer is not usually diagnosed before the age of 40. Most people diagnosed with this cancer are between 55 and 70 years of age.

Risk factors are generally listed in order from most to least important. But in most cases, it is impossible to rank them with absolute certainty.

Risk factors

Smoking tobacco

Drinking alcohol

Combined smoking and alcohol use

There is convincing evidence that the following factors increase your risk for hypopharyngeal cancer.

Smoking tobacco

Smoking tobacco is the main risk factor for developing hypopharyngeal cancer. All forms of tobacco, including cigarettes, cigars and pipes, increase your risk. The risk increases with the amount and length of time you smoke.

Continuing to smoke after you’ve been treated for hypopharyngeal cancer increases your chances of developing another cancer, or second cancer, in your head or neck.

Drinking alcohol

Drinking alcohol increases the risk of developing hypopharyngeal cancer. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol you drink.

Combined smoking and alcohol use

Smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol together increases your risk of developing hypopharyngeal cancer more than smoking or drinking alcohol alone.

Possible risk factors

The following factors have been linked with hypopharyngeal cancer, but there is not enough evidence to show for sure that they are risk factors. More research is needed to clarify the role of these factors for hypopharyngeal cancer.

  • human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • second-hand smoke
  • smokeless tobacco
  • family history
  • diet low in vegetables and fruit
  • coming into contact with formaldehyde, coal dust and cement dust
  • Plummer-Vinson syndrome
  • certain genetic conditions, such as Fanconi anemia and congenital dyskeratosis
  • areca nut and betel quid

Questions to ask your healthcare team

To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about risks.