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Risk factors for salivary gland 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. But sometimes salivary gland cancer develops in people who don’t have any of the risk factors described below.
Salivary gland cancer can occur at almost any age, but most people who develop salivary gland cancer are older than 50. Slightly more men than women develop this disease. There is a high rate of salivary gland cancer in Canadian Inuit.
The following are risk factors for salivary gland cancer. Most of the risk factors are not modifiable. This means that you can’t change them. Until we learn more about these risk factors, there are no specific ways you can reduce your risk.
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.
There is convincing evidence that exposure to radiation increases your risk for salivary gland cancer. The risk is related to how much radiation someone is exposed to.
People who had radiation therapy to the head or neck and atomic bomb survivors have the highest risk.
People who had many full-mouth dental x-rays also have a high risk for salivary gland cancer. This is especially true for people who had these x-rays before the 1960s when the doses of radiation were much higher.
Possible risk factors
The following factors have been linked with salivary gland 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 salivary gland cancer.
- treatment with iodine 131 (I-131) for thyroid cancer
- Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection
Questions to ask your healthcare team
To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about risks.
Great progress has been made
Some cancers, such as thyroid and testicular, have survival rates of over 90%. Other cancers, such as pancreatic, brain and esophageal, continue to have very low survival rates.