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How to Prevent Throat Cancer

A diagnosis of throat cancer can be a devastating event. And, although modern medical science has yet to discover the causes of this disease, researchers have discovered that certain behaviors can put individuals at greater risk for developing throat cancer. If you’re someone who falls into any of the categories for being at a higher risk for developing this disease, it’s important to know that making just a few lifestyle adjustments can lower your risk. Though the overall cancer rate in the U.S. is declining, some types of cancers, including mouth and throat cancers, are on the rise throughout the country. Here are some steps you can take to help prevent experiencing this disease firsthand.

Throat cancers, or laryngeal and pharyngeal cancers, are cancers that form in the tissues of the pharynx, which is the hollow tube in the neck that begins just behind the nose and stretches to the top of the windpipe and esophagus. Throat cancers include cancers of the upper portion of the throat behind the nose; the middle and bottom portions of the pharynx (the oropharynx and hypopharynx, respectively); and cancers of the voice box (larynx).

According to recent studies, more than 12,000 new cases of these types of throat cancers are diagnosed each year in the United States. Again, the causes of throat cancer are at this time not known. However, there are measures that can be taken to help prevent developing throat cancer, as certain behavioral factors have been pinpointed as contributing components. Following is a list of these risk factors and recommendations for lifestyle changes that can help prevent the development of cancers of the throat.

1) Use of tobacco products significantly increases an individual’s risk of developing cancers of the throat and/or mouth. Smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes, as well as using smokeless tobacco products such as dip, snuff, or chewing tobacco are all highly risky behaviors that can contribute to a throat cancer diagnosis. In fact, using smokeless tobacco products puts you at a staggering 50-percent higher risk. Cessation of any and all of these products is highly recommended in order to help prevent throat cancer.

2) Excessive alcohol intake is a high-risk behavior that significantly increases the chances of developing cancers of the throat. It’s recommended that individuals who engage in heavy alcohol intake reduce their consumption to one alcoholic beverage per day. If you or someone you love engages in this high-risk behavior and has difficulty limiting alcohol intake, contact a support group, physician, or counselor who can help.

3) Vitamin deficiencies, especially a lack of vitamin A, have been linked to a greater risk of developing throat cancer. It’s important that you supply your body with sufficient nutrient needs every day. A poor diet that lacks proper nutrition has been linked to the development of many diseases and can be a contributing factor in throat cancer. Be sure to eat at least 5 servings of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains daily.

4) Sexually transmitted disease is a surprising contributing factor to many types of throat cancer, as studies have shown an association between human papillomavirus (HPV) to this disease, as well as other types of head and neck cancers. For this reason, it’s important that sexually active individuals limit the number of sexual partners they have, use a condom during every sexual act, and consider getting vaccinated with the HPV vaccine.

5) Routine cancer screenings are important, especially if you are in one of these high-risk categories. Naturally, a healthy lifestyle is vital to a healthy life. However, unhealthy, risky behaviors are not the only contributing factors to throat cancer. Heredity and viruses have also been linked to the development of throat cancer. Screenings are recommended to all individuals, especially those who have a family history of throat cancer.

If you have experienced throat cancer, either personally or through a loved one, you know that its diagnosis can be overwhelming. It’s important to know, however, that cancer survival rates are much more favorable than you may think. Five-year survival rates for stage 1 of some types of throat cancer are upwards of 85 percent, and survival rates for stage 2 are in the 80-percent range. These numbers are good news compared to just a couple of decades ago. However, it’s also important to know that throat cancers need to be detected and diagnosed as early as possible. For this reason, it’s vital that those in high-risk groups schedule regular visits to family dentists and doctors in order to be routinely examined for early detection of any cell changes within the mouth and throat.

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