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We don’t know what causes each case of laryngeal or hypopharyngeal cancer. But we do know many of the risk factors for these cancers. A risk factor is anything that affects your chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors. Some risk factors, such as smoking, can be controlled. Others, like a person’s age or race, can’t be changed. But risk factors don’t tell us everything. Having a risk factor, or even several risk factors, does not mean that you will get the disease. And many people who get the disease may not have had any known risk factors.

Laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers are often grouped with other cancers of the mouth and throat as head and neck cancers. These cancers have many of the same risk factors, such as:

  • Tobacco and alcohol use
  • Poor diet
  • Human papilloma virus (HPV) infection
  • Certain genetic syndromes, such as Fanconi anemia and dyskeratosis congenita
  • Workplace exposure to wood dust, paint fumes, and certain chemicals
  • Gender - these cancers are about 4 times more common in men than in women.
  • Age – the risk gets higher as people get older
  • Race - these cancers are more common among African Americans and whites than among Asians and Latinos.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

More information about these risk factors can be found in Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancers.

Last Medical Review: 04/08/2014
Last Revised: 02/17/2016