Americans lack awareness of head and neck cancer risks

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New Haven, CT – Public awareness is low when it comes to risk factors for head and neck cancers, according to a study from Yale University.

About two-thirds of adults in the study acknowledged that they were “not very” or “not at all” knowledgeable about head and neck cancers. A better understanding of the diseases is important, researchers said, because it could promote early detection and reduce lifestyle risk factors.

Head and neck cancers include the areas of the mouth, tongue, throat, salivary glands, paranasal sinuses and other areas, according to the National Cancer Institute. Men are about twice as likely as women to be diagnosed with these types of cancers.

A significant risk factor is smoking cigarettes and using other tobacco products, which 54.5 percent of respondents correctly identified in the Yale survey. Meanwhile, 32.7 percent of respondents noted that chewing or spitting tobacco also was a risk factor for mouth and throat cancer. Less than 1 percent identified the link between human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and mouth and throat cancer.

The study was published online June 5 in JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery.