Do we know what causes salivary gland cancer?
We know very little about the actual causes of most salivary gland cancers. Researchers have found that some salivary gland cancers have DNA abnormalities.
DNA is the chemical in each of our cells that makes up our genes -- the instructions for how our cells function. We usually look like our parents because they are the source of our DNA. However, DNA affects more than how we look. It also can influence our risk for developing certain diseases, such as some kinds of cancer.
Some genes contain instructions for controlling when cells grow and divide. Genes that promote cell division are called oncogenes. Genes that slow down cell division or cause cells to die at the right time are called tumor suppressor genes. Cancers can be caused by DNA changes that turn on oncogenes or turn off tumor suppressor genes.
Exposure to radiation or certain carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals) may result in these DNA changes, but in most cases of salivary gland cancer their cause is not known.
Last Medical Review: 09/21/2012
Last Revised: 09/21/2012