According to the results of a study published in the International Journal of Cancer, risk of oral and pharyngeal cancer is significantly increased among individuals with a family history of those cancers, even after accounting for smoking and alcohol use.
Oral cancer refers to cancer that involves the mouth, lips, or tongue. Pharyngeal cancer refers to cancer of the throat (the tube that starts behind the nose and ends at the top of the windpipe and esophagus).
Factors that increase the risk of oral and pharyngeal cancers include tobacco and alcohol use. Less information is available about the extent to which family history plays a role.
To explore the relationship between family history and risk of oral and pharyngeal cancers, researchers conducted a study in Italy and Switzerland. The study involved 956 patients with oral or pharyngeal cancer and 2,362 individuals without cancer.
The study focused on first-degree family history of oral, pharyngeal, or laryngeal cancer. This refers to cancer in a parent, sibling, or child.
- After accounting for smoking and alcohol use, individuals with a first-degree family history of oral, pharyngeal, or laryngeal cancer were roughly three times more likely to develop oral or pharyngeal cancer themselves.
- Having two or more affected first-degree relatives was linked with a roughly seven-fold increased risk of oral or pharyngeal cancer.
- A particularly high risk of oral and pharyngeal cancer was observed among individuals with a combination of risk factors. People who smoked, drank heavily, and had a family history of oral or pharyngeal/laryngeal cancer were roughly 42 times more likely to develop oral or pharyngeal cancer than people with none of these risk factors.
The researchers conclude that family history increases the risk of oral and pharyngeal cancer.
Reference: Garavello W, Foschi R, Talamini R et al. Family history and the risk of oral and pharyngeal cancer. International Journal of Cancer [early online publication]. December 12, 2007.