Certain factors, such as tobacco use, alcohol consumption, and exposure, may increase a person’s risk of salivary gland cancer. Avoiding these factors may help prevent it.
Salivary gland cancer is a
There are several salivary glands, including:
- Parotid glands: These are the most prominent salivary glands that extend from in front of the ears to below each ear. They are the site of most major salivary gland tumors.
- Sublingual glands: These sit on the floor of the mouth under the tongue.
- Submandibular glands: These sit below the jawbone.
- Minor salivary glands: There are hundreds of these in the mouth, nose, and back of the throat.
A lump on any of these glands may cause a person concern. However, the majority of salivary gland tumors in adults are not cancerous and do not spread from their original site.
This article discusses salivary gland cancer prevention, whether it is possible, and what science knows about its possible causes and risk factors.
Despite the limited number of salivary gland cancer studies, research has highlighted a few factors that may have links to this type of cancer. They also point toward potential ways to reduce the risk. These factors include avoiding tobacco use and avoiding exposure to certain infections and workplace chemicals.
Tobacco use can cause a range of serious conditions, including cancers. A Warthin tumor is a noncancerous salivary gland tumor. An
- smoking at an earlier age
- smoking for longer
- smoking more packs of cigarettes
A person who has smoked a cigarette had a much higher risk of developing a Warthin tumor than a nonsmoker.
It is important to note that this study was small and points to a need for more research.
This is a herpes virus linked to mononucleosis, or mono. A 2017 review of 19 studies found that
- sharing food and drinks
- sharing cups, utensils, or toothbrushes
Using condoms or other barrier methods during sexual activity may also help prevent transmission.
HPV vaccines are available. The
HIV weakens the immune system, increasing a person’s risk of several health problems.
According to a 2011 review, one of these health problems may be a type of salivary gland tumor called lymphoepithelial carcinoma. However, antiretroviral therapy can help keep the viral load low and
People who work with the following chemicals and substances may also be at a higher risk of developing certain cancers, such as salivary gland cancer:
- nickel alloy dust
- silica dust
- asbestos mining
- rubber product manufacture
- sawdust in some types of woodworking
- chemicals used in leather production
- industrial solvents
- hair dye or hairspray
The research on this is too limited to say for certain that any of these cause salivary gland cancer.
Salivary gland cancer
Symptoms can also occur due to other health problems, so it is important to speak with a healthcare professional if any of the following signs or symptoms occur:
- a lump, typically painless, inside the cheek, jaw, lip, mouth, or near the ear
- finding it difficult to swallow or fully open the mouth
- a feeling of numbness or weakness in the face
- facial pain that does not get better
A healthcare professional can investigate these symptoms further using a physical exam and imaging, including CT and MRI scans. They may also take a biopsy, which involves the removal of tissue to examine the cells under a microscope. This helps them identify whether a person has cancer, work out how advanced or aggressive it may be, and suggest treatment options.
The following are some questions people frequently ask about salivary gland cancer.
What is the average age for developing salivary gland cancer?
According to the
Is salivary gland cancer rare?
Salivary gland cancer is not common in the United States. It accounts for
Who is more likely to get salivary gland cancer?
Experts do not know the exact cause of salivary gland cancer. However, certain factors may increase an individual’s risk of developing it. These risk factors
- older age
- exposure to radiation
- certain viral infections, such as HPV, EBV, and HIV
Salivary gland cancer comprises a rare group of cancers with unclear causes. Due to the rarity of this type of cancer, there is limited research into it. This makes it difficult to determine exactly how to prevent it.
However, avoiding tobacco use and exposure to radiation and workplace substances, such as asbestos, may reduce a person’s risk of developing this type of cancer.
If an individual finds any new lumps in their mouth, face, or neck, or experiences facial numbness or weakness and difficulty swallowing, they should contact a healthcare professional.