Health Alert:

See the latest Coronavirus Information including testing sites, visitation restrictions, appointments and scheduling, and more.

Laryngeal (Voice Box) Cancer Risks and Prevention

Individuals with certain risk factors for voice box cancer may have a greater chance of developing the disease. These risk factors include:

Tobacco and alcohol use

Alcohol and cigarettes contain toxic chemicals that increase the risk of individuals developing different types of voice box cancer. Individuals are at a much higher risk of developing the disease if they regularly drink and smoke or engage in a combination of both. The more often you do it, the higher the risk. Heavy alcohol use is linked to supraglottic cancer (above the vocal cords) and glottic cancer (on the vocal cords).

Poor nutrition

Poor nutrition often exacerbates voice box cancer due to difficulty swallowing or aspiration caused by the cancer. Individuals with vitamin deficiencies are also more susceptible to developing the disease.

Human papillomavirus infection (HPV)

Although those with voice box cancer will often be tested for HPV as a possible factor in developing the disease, there is not a strong connection between the two (as is the case with oropharyngeal (throat) cancers).

Genetic diseases or mutations

Those with certain genetic diseases or syndromes may have a higher risk of developing voice box cancer. Some genetic syndromes linked to voice box cancer include:

  • Fanconi anemia: Those with fanconi anemia often experience blood problems at an early age. Individuals with this syndrome have a very high risk of cancer of the mouth, throat and voice box.
  • Dyskeratosis congenita: Individuals with dyskeratosis congenita often develop aplastic anemia, rashes and abnormal fingernails and toenails. Individuals with this syndrome have a very high risk of developing cancer of the mouth, throat and voice box when they are young.
  • Plummer Vinson syndrome (PVS): Individuals with PVS have difficulty swallowing and often develop iron-deficiency anemia, glossitis, cheilosis and esophageal webs. Those with this syndrome have a high risk of developing different types of throat cancers, including voice box cancer.

Workplace exposures

Exposure to certain toxins and chemicals in the workplace (such as textile industries) have been linked to the development of voice box cancer. These chemicals include:

  • Wood dust
  • Paint
  • Chemicals used in metal working
  • Petroleum
  • Plastics
  • Asbestos (some studies have revealed a possible link to voice box cancer)

Gender

Studies show that men are four times more likely to develop voice box cancer than women. This may be due to the fact that in the past, men engaged in heavier smoking and drinking than women. But in recent years, these habits have become more common in women, increasing their risk of voice box cancer as well.

Age

A high number of voice box cancer patients are 65 or older when the cancers are first detected. Although rare, voice box cancer can appear in children who have recurrent respiratory papillomatosis. But this is uncommon.

Race

Research has found that laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers are more common among African Americans and Caucasians.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

GERD is characterized by acid from the stomach that backs up into the espophagus. GERD may be linked to an increased risk of voice box cancer.