Though laryngeal cancer is strongly linked to several risk factors, a small percentage of patients have no known risk factors.
Let’s first look at the risk factors for laryngeal (voice box) cancer:
• Smoking (cigarettes, cigars, pipes)
• Chewing tobacco
• Heavy drinking
• HPV virus
• Eating very few fruits and vegetables
• Acid reflux (GERD)
For this article I consulted with Steven Y. Park, MD, Clinical Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology at the New York Medical College; author of “Sleep, Interrupted: A Physician Reveals The #1 Reason Why So Many of Us Are Sick And Tired.”
How many people with laryngeal cancer don’t have known risk factors?
Dr. Park explains, “I haven’t seen or come across any studies that specifically report this, since most report odds-ratios comparing those with and without these risk factors.
“It’s probably in the one to two percent range. I do know that with oral cancer, about 25 percent have no known risk factors.”
Oral cancer pertains to the mouth, tongue and oral cavities, not the larynx.
Dr. Park points out a very interesting phenomenon:
“I can’t tell you how many patients come in who think that they have throat cancer after seeing the American Dental Association’s annual ads that tell people to get screened for oral cancer.”
Though ads to get screened may generate the idea that oral cancer is widespread and that anybody can get it, you must realize that screening for oral cancer is very easy, and a good dentist will include this in a routine exam; so of course there’s going to be many ads for screening by the ADA.
Getting Laryngeal Cancer but Having No Risk Factors
Symptoms are: coughing; vocal changes like hoarseness, not talking clearly; trouble with swallowing; sore throat; feeling something “stuck” in the throat; ear pain; unexplained weight loss.
Dr. Park explains, “In general, you won’t have periods of normalcy [in between symptoms], but there are always exceptions to the rule.
“Your chances of it being cancer is very low [see statistics], and your voice coming back suggests other more common conditions. Ultimately, the only way to know is to look.”