What causes head and neck cancer?
We know that cancers are not infectious – cancer of the head or
neck cannot be caught from someone like a cold or cough. However,
we do not know very much about what does cause cancer.
There are some things, however, that we know do to increase the
chance of developing cancer of the head and neck, including:
- Smoking tobacco
- Chewing tobacco, betel, pan, or gutkha
- Heavy consumption of alcohol
- A poor diet.
In some cancers, there appears to be a link with specific
causative factors. For example, cancer of the nasopharynx has been
linked to the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a very common virus that
also causes glandular fever. EBV does not cause cancer on its own,
and it is not known why it is associated with cancer in some
people and only with an infection in others.
We also know that cancer of the head and neck is more common in
men than in women and is more common in people over 55 years old
than in younger people.