Prevention

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.

Recent research suggests that exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer, may be associated with an increased risk for certain types of head and neck cancer.

More information

Breaking the Habits Beating Us
This series offers assistance in dealing with the feelings and behaviors commonly experienced by persons with head and neck cancer and helps patients who need to quit smoking and/or drinking.