The two most important risk factors for developing head and neck cancer are using tobacco (smoking or chewing) and heavy use of alcohol

Not only is tobacco use a major risk factor for developing an initial tumor, it also increases the risk for secondary tumors.

All forms of tobacco increase the risk of developing head and neck cancer. It doesn't matter whether it's a cigarette, pipe, cigar or chewing tobacco. The single most important thing you can do to lower your risk for head and neck cancer is to stop smoking. If you stop smoking today, it will be 15 to 20 years before your risk level declines to that of the general population. But the risk drops most rapidly during the first few years, so it's important to stop, no matter how long you've been a smoker.

Mouth and Throat Cancer Linked to Human Papiloma Virus (HPV)

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the US according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s so common that nearly all sexually active men and women will have it at some point in their lives. In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause genital warts and cancer. HPV is found in mouth and throat or oropharyngeal (OR-oh-fuh-RIN-jee-uhl) cancers in men and women. More than 7 out of 10 cancers found in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils, are HPV-related.

HPV Vaccination Prevents Mouth and Throat Cancer

The Centers for Disease Control recommends the vaccine for both boys and girls ages 11 and 12, and for boys and young men ages 13 through 21 and girls and young women ages 13 to 26 who have not already had all 3 shots. Vaccinations may also be given to children as young as 9 and to men between the ages of 22 and 26.

In 2016, National Cancer Institute designated Cancer Centers released a statement "encouraging all parents to have their daughters complete the 3-dose HPV vaccine series before their 13th birthday. Learn more by reading the consensus statement.

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