Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month

Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month

Head and neck cancer is a group of cancers that usually begin in the squamous cells that line the mucosal surfaces inside the mouth, nose, throat, and occasionally the salivary glands. These squamous cell cancers are often referred to as squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck. 

Head and neck cancers account for nearly 4 percent of all cancers in the United States, the National Cancer Institute reported. Alcohol and tobacco use are major risk factors for head and neck cancers. Infection with cancer-causing types of human papillomavirus (HPV) also increases a person’s risk of certain head and neck cancers. 

Other risk factors for these cancers include:

  • Eating preserved or salted foods.    
  • Poor oral hygiene and missing teeth.    
  • Occupational exposure to wood dust, asbestos, and synthetic fibers.    
  • Radiation exposure.    
  • Epstein-Barr virus infection.    
  • Asian ancestry, particularly Chinese ancestry.

April is Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month.

Head and neck cancer is more common among men than women. These cancers are also diagnosed more often among people over age 50 than among younger people.

The symptoms of head and neck cancers may include a lump or a sore that does not heal, a sore throat that does not go away, difficulty in swallowing, and a change or hoarseness in the voice. 

What is the AACR Doing in This Area?

In February 2021, the AACR and The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research announced five grants to support innovative research focused on understanding the influence of the biology of the patient on the genesis, development, treatment, and survivorship of cancer.

Fatemeh Momen-Heravi, PhD, of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at Columbia University, was awarded one of the 3-year, $750,000 grants for a project entitled “Biological mechanism and risk factor of head and neck cancer in Blacks.”

Dr. Momen-Heravi’s project aims to characterize the molecular features of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) and identify transcriptomic changes associated with HNSCC in patients with African ancestry. 

This grant supports the important mission of reducing health disparities in head and neck cancer,” said Dr. Momen-Heravi. “Our research will transform the lives of many minority patients by understanding their specific risk factors and developing new personalized treatment.”

The AACR’s mission is to prevent and cure all forms of cancer.