Who Gets Head and Neck Cancer?
According to the National Cancer Institute, cancers of the head and neck account for six percent of all malignancies in the United States. Whites currently have the highest incidence rates of head and neck cancers, but African Americans have the highest mortality. Overall, about 62,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease each year.
The incidence of thyroid cancer has increased in all races and in both males and females in the past two decades. Thyroid cancer incidence is almost three times higher in females than in males and more than two times higher in whites than in African Americans. However, despite the increase in incidence, death rates have remained very low.
The most significant risk factors for head and neck cancer are alcohol and tobacco. Other risk factors include:
- Occupation - exposure to wood or nickel dust or asbestos increases risk significantly.
- Plummer-Vinson syndrome (disorder from nutritional deficiencies).
- Exposure to viruses, including the human papillomavirus (HPV) and Epstein-Barr, can increase risk.
- Poor oral hygiene.
- Gender - rates of head and neck cancer are nearly twice as high in men and are greatest in men over age 50.