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Holding a pipe or cigarette on your lip when smoking also increases your risk of developing lip cancer.
Drinking and smoking together greatly increase the risk of head and neck cancers. People who smoke and drink heavily over several years have the highest risk of developing head and neck cancers.
Many of these cancers are linked to infection with a type of virus called human papilloma virus 16 (HPV 16). HPV affects the skin and moist membranes that line the body, such as the mouth and throat.
HPV is spread through body-to-body contact, often during sex. Exactly how a person gets the virus is uncertain, and it is not always possible to link the virus to sexual contact. It is thought there may be other ways of spreading the virus that have not yet been identified.
We have information about HPV and cancer.
Some people with reduced immunity have an increased risk of developing a head and neck cancer. Your immunity may be low if you:
Eythroplakia (red patches) is less common than leukoplakia (white patches). But having eythroplakia is linked to a higher risk of cancer developing.