Nonsmokers can get laryngeal cancer, but can it be reassuring to know what percentage of laryngeal cancer patients don’t smoke?

To find out what percentage of laryngeal cancer patients are not smokers (and I don’t mean those who quit the habit upon being diagnosed, but those who’d been leading a lifestyle free of smoking), I consulted with Steven Y. Park, MD, Clinical Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology at the New York Medical College.

Dr. Park is the author of “Sleep, Interrupted: A Physician Reveals The #1 Reason Why So Many of Us Are Sick And Tired.”

As for how many people with laryngeal cancer don’t smoke, Dr. Park explains:

“About 5 percent are nonsmokers. There are other risk factors besides alcohol and smoking, such as reflux, certain occupational chemicals (including asbestos), and HPV (the same virus that causes most cervical cancers).”

Scared you might have laryngeal cancer even though you’re a nonsmoker and nondrinker?

Here are some statistics from

• 13,430: Estimated new U.S. cases for 2016

• 65: Average age of diagnosis

• 4 to 1: There are more than four times as many men diagnosed as women.

Prevalence of Laryngeal Cancer in the U.S. by Age Breakdown Per Year

• 20-34: 0.4% = 54 new cases (remember, about one-fourth are women)

• 35-44: 2.4% = 322 new cases

• 45-54: 14.6% = 1,961 new cases

• 55-64: 30.9% = 4,150 new cases

• 65-74: 29.4% = 3,948 new cases

• 75-84: 17.1% = 2,296 new cases

If you’re a nonsmoker, subtract 95 percent from the “new cases” total for your age bracket.

So let’s suppose you’re 40, a man and don’t smoke, but you’re worried you might have laryngeal cancer.

To put this in perspective, you are worrying that you have a disease for which only 12 people a year in your age group are diagnosed.

Let’s Do the Math

• 322 new cases a year for people 35-44.

• 242 of these cases will be men.

• 5 percent of 242 = 12!

• If you’re a nonsmoking woman in this age group, you’re worrying over an illness for which only FOUR women a year are diagnosed! (One-fourth of 322 = 80, x 5%)

Risk Factors for Laryngeal Cancer in Nonsmokers

A report in the British Journal of Cancer states: “In developed countries, laryngeal cancer is extremely rare in individuals who do not smoke and do not drink and information on risk in such people is therefore limited.”

But what if a nonsmoker drinks?

Studies that are reported in the BJC point out that heavy drinking raises the risk, but that smoking is a much more significant risk raiser.

In short, a nonsmoker who drinks heavily is at much less risk for laryngeal cancer than is a nondrinker who smokes.

Dr. Park practices integrative medicine and surgery, and has helped thousands of people breathe better and sleep better.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  
­Top image: ©Lorra Garrick