Most cancers of the head and neck are of a type called carcinoma (in particular squamous cell carcinoma) but they can also include other kinds like lymphomas or melanomas.
Several risk factors have been associated with increasing the risk of head and neck cancers. These include:
- Smoking (tobacco and marijuana)
- Chewing tobacco
- Frequent alcohol use
Other risk factors that are associated with particular head and necks cancers include:
- Sun exposure – oral cavity
- Radiation – salivary glands
- Asbestos – larynx
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) - same subtypes as cause cervical cancer
Mouth cancers are the common cancers which affect the area of the head and neck. They usually develop from cells that line the mouth or cover the tongue and commonly found in the lips, tongue or the floor of the mouth.
The paranasal sinuses are the spaces within the bones behind the nose and cheeks and nasal cavity.
Salivary glands make saliva (spit) in the mouth. Saliva moistens the mouth and helps food to slide down into the stomach.
The nasopharynx connects the nose to the back of the mouth. Most nasopharyngeal cancers are squamous cell carcinomas.
The oropharynx is the part of the throat that is directly behind the mouth. Its main functions are speaking and swallowing. The most common type of oropharyngeal cancer is squamous cell carcinoma.