Risk Factors and Symptoms of Laryngeal Cancer

Risk Factors

  • Alcohol and tobacco use represent a 75% of the risk factors especially cancers of the oral cavity (mouth), oropharynx (part of the throat at the back of the mouth), hypopharynx (lower part of the throat at the back of the mouth), and larynx or voice box. People who use both tobacco and alcohol are at greater risk of developing these cancers than people who use either tobacco or alcohol alone.
  • Infection with cancer-causing types of human papillomavirus (HPV), especially HPV type 16, affects particularly the tonsils or the base of the tongue. The incidence of oropharyngeal cancers caused by HPV infection is increasing, while the incidence of these cancers related to other causes is falling. (National Cancer Institute)
  • Radiation exposure for non-cancerous reasons is a risk factor for salivary gland cancers
  • Occupational exposure to wood dust, asbestos and synthetic fabrics have been associated with cancers of the larynx and nasopharyngeal region. Industrial exposure to wood or nickel dust or formaldehyde is also a risk factor for cancers of the paranasal sinuses and nasal cavity.
  • Epstein-Barr virus is a risk factor for nasopharyngeal cancer and cancer of the salivary glands
  • Asian ancestry, particularly Chinese ancestry, is a risk factor for nasopharyngeal cancer.

(National Cancer Institute)


Larynx (Voice Box)

Symptoms of the larynx usually affect the glottis (flap of tissue at the back of the throat) that includes the vocal cords and therefore, the voice. Among these are:

  • hoarseness lasting longer than a few weeks
  • changes in the voice or weakness of the voice
  • sore throat lasting longer than a few weeks
  • feeling that something is stuck in the throat
  • difficult or painful swallowing
  • cough
  • ear pain

Advanced stage carcinoma symptoms for this region are:

  • hoarseness (a late sign if the tumour started in the supraglottis, a flap of tissue that closes the windpipe to prevent food from getting into the lungs)
  • difficulty breathing
  • noisy breathing
  • lump in the throat or neck
  • ear pain
  • weight loss

(Canadian Cancer Society)