Risk Factors for Head and Neck Cancer

Factors known to contribute to the risk of developing head and neck cancers include smoking (both tobacco and marijuana) or chewing tobacco and frequent alcohol use. Leukoplakia (white spots or patches in the mouth) also may be considered a risk factor for head and neck cancer, as this condition becomes cancerous in approximately one-third of patients.

Pathology of Head and Neck Cancer

Most head and neck cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, tumors that develop in the tissue lining the hollow organs of the body. However, other tumor types also may be seen and include lymphoepithelioma, spindle cell carcinoma, verrucous cancer, undifferentiated carcinoma and cancers of the lymph nodes, called lymphoma (most often diffuse non-Hodgkins lymphoma).

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 15 Aug 1999

Last Modified: 07 Dec 2011