Smoking, alcohol consumption, and HPV infection are the most prominent risk factors for oropharyngeal cancer.
- When compared to non-smokers, smoking increases the risk of head and neck cancer by 5-25 times. Cigar and pipe smoking have also been linked to an increased risk of malignancies of the head and neck.
- Consumption of alcohol increases the risk by 5-6 times. The risk is proportional to the amount of food consumed.
- Smoking and drinking have a compounding effect on the risk of head and neck cancer.
- HPV infection raises the risk of oropharyngeal cancer, especially malignancies of the tonsils and base of the tongue. HPV infection causes the majority of oropharyngeal malignancies (70-80%).