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Head and Neck CancersThroat CancerThroat Cancer Causes

Let's Talk About Throat Cancer Causes

This challenging disease is almost entirely preventable, once you know what's behind it. Here's what experts say are the major risk factors.

    Our Pro PanelThroat Cancer Causes

    We went to some of the nation's top experts on head and neck cancers to bring you the most up-to-date information possible.

    Salvatore M. Caruana, M.D.

    Salvatore M. Caruana, M.D.Director of the Division of Head and Neck Surgery

    New York-Presbyterian Hospital Columbia University Medical Center
    New York, NY
    Nadia Mohyuddin, M.D.

    Nadia Mohyuddin, M.D.Head and Neck Surgical Oncologist, Associate Professor of Clinical Otolaryngology

    Houston Methodist Hospital
    Houston, TX
    J. Kenneth Byrd, M.D.

    J. Kenneth Byrd, M.D.Chief of Head and Neck Surgery, Medical Director and Research Director

    Georgia Cancer Center at Augusta University
    Augusta, GA

    Frequently Asked QuestionsThroat Cancer Causes

    Can I get the HPV vaccine?

    Technically, yes. Once approved for ages 9 to 26, the FDA has raised the age limit to 45. But it’s not likely to be effective unless you’ve never had an HPV infection before, and most people contract HPV almost as soon as they start having sex. If you’re in a monogamous relationship, there’s little reason to get the HPV vaccine past your late 20s. However, if you’re older, single, and dating, you may get some benefit, since the vaccine could protect you against a viral strain you haven’t encountered.

    Does vaping cause throat cancer?

    Electronic cigarettes haven’t been around long enough for experts to know for sure, but evidence is mounting that vaping—once touted as a healthier alternative to help people quit tobacco—may be dangerous. These battery-powered devices heat liquids that contain various chemicals to produce vapors, including nicotine and other potential carcinogens. So while it may not cause throat cancer, some people are developing serious lung disease as a result, and we have no idea what kind of damage long term use may do.

    What are the early signs of throat cancer?

    They can vary depending on which part of the throat the cancer occurs in, but some of the most common early signs are a persistent sore throat, pain or burning when swallowing, the sensation that food is stuck in your throat, voice changes such as hoarseness or sounding like you have a cold all the time, and a lump in your neck.

    Why isn’t there an HPV screening test for men?

    The oropharynx, where HPV cancer occurs, is not an easy surface to get to or examine, whether manually or with imaging tests. And even if your doc detected the presence of HPV in the oropharynx, that doesn’t mean you’ll get cancer. Most of the time the HPV infection will just clear on its own without any symptoms.

    Stephanie Wood

    Stephanie Wood

    Stephanie Wood is a award-winning freelance writer and former magazine editor specializing in health, nutrition, wellness, and parenting.