There is no disputing that tobacco (in whatever form) and alcohol are the two most pervasive risk factors when it comes to head and neck cancers. Particularly vulnerable are the oral cavity, pharynx and larynx. Fully 85% of these cancers are linked to smoking and chewing tobacco. Combined with heavy alcohol usage, the risk for this kind of cancer increases dramatically.
Beyond tobacco and alcohol use, other risk factors include:
- Sun exposure (especially to the lips)
- Some industrial exposure to wood or nickel dust
- Epstein-Barr virus infection
- Consumption of some preservatives or salted foods
- Exposure to airborne asbestos
- Poor oral hygiene and gum disease
- Human papilloma virus infection
- Prior radiation exposure
Head and neck cancers are very often preventable. Anyone at risk should maintain regular health check-ups and dental visits. They are your first lines of defense.
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