Causes of laryngeal cancer

Laryngeal cancer is caused by changes in the cells of the larynx, although it's not clear exactly why this happens.

All cancers begin with a change ina cell'sDNA.DNA provides our cells with a basic set of instructions, such as when to grow and reproduce.

A change inDNA can alter the instructions that control cell growth, which means cells continue to grow instead of stopping when they should. This causes the cells to reproduce in an uncontrollable manner, producing a growth of tissue called a tumour.

It's not known why the DNA inside the cells of the larynx is affected in cases of laryngeal cancer. But it appears that exposure tothings that can damage the cells and tissue of the larynx increases the risk of cancer developing.

What can increase your risk?

Anumber of things can increase your chances of developing laryngeal cancer.

Alcohol and tobacco

Alcohol and tobacco are the two main things that can increase your risk of developing laryngeal cancer. They'rethought to contain chemicals that can damage the cells of the larynx.

Themore you drink or smoke, the higher your risk of developing laryngeal cancer.

People who smoke more than 25 cigarettes a day, or people who have smoked for more than 40 years, have been found to be about 40 times more likely to develop laryngeal cancer thanpeople who don't smoke.

Compared to people who don't drink, people who regularly drink large amounts of alcohol are about three times more likely to develop laryngeal cancer.

If you drink and smoke, your risk of laryngeal cancer increases even further. By stopping both drinking and smoking, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing the condition. It's thought the virus may have a similar effect on the cells of the throat. HPV is often spread during sex, including oral sex.

Exposure to harmfulsubstances

Having a job where you're exposed to high levels of certain substances may also increase your risk of developing laryngeal cancer. These include:

  • asbestos
  • coal or wood dust
  • paint or diesel fumes
  • nickel
  • sulphuric acid fumes
  • formaldehyde (a chemicalused in a wide range of industrial processes, such as paint manufacturing and cosmetics)
  • isopropyl alcohol (often used as a cleaning solvent)

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 30 Nov 2016