Causes and risk factors of cancer of the voicebox (larynx)
Around 2,300 people in the UK are diagnosed with cancer of the larynx each year.
The exact cause of laryngeal cancer isn’t known, but certain risk factors can affect the chances of developing it.
Having a risk factor for cancer doesn’t mean you’ll definitely get it. Some people with risk factors never develop cancer, and other people without any known risk factors can still develop it.
Around 2,300 people in the UK are diagnosed with cancer of the larynx each year. The main risk factors are smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol, but other factors can also increase your risk.
This type of cancer is rare in people under 40. It’s more common in people in their 60s and 70s. It’s five times more common in men than in women.
The longer a person smokes for and the more they smoke, the greater the risk of developing laryngeal cancer. You might find it helpful to see our information about giving up smoking.
Drinking a lot of alcohol, especially spirits, over a long period of time increases a person’s risk of getting laryngeal cancer. The risk is much higher for people who are both smokers and heavy drinkers.
Human papilloma virus (HPV) infection
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This is a common virus, but certain types of the virus are linked with some cancers. It can affect the moist linings in the body, including those in the throat.
We have more information about HPV and cancer.
Having a diet that’s high in animal fats and low in fresh fruit and vegetables may increase the risk of developing laryngeal cancer.
People who have a close relative (a parent, brother, sister or child) with cancer of the larynx have a slightly higher risk of developing it.
Stomach acid can sometimes come back up the gullet (oesophagus) and irritate or damage the gullet lining.
This may also affect the larynx and increase the risk of cancer. It can occur when people have conditions such as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD).
As with other cancers, cancer of the larynx isn’t infectious and can’t be passed on to other people.