Laryngeal (Voice Box) Cancer: What Patients Should Know in Decision Making

Written by Gregory T. Wolf, M.D.,
Head and Neck Oncology Program; Department of Otolaryngology


Cancers arising in the larynx (voice box) are devastating malignancies that account for roughly 200,000 deaths annually worldwide. Although this only represents 2-5% of all malignancies, these cancers have special importance because of their significant effects on voice, swallowing and quality of life. In the United States, it is estimated that over 12,000 new cases are diagnosed each year and that this incidence is increasing during a time that many other cancers are decreasing.

Tobacco use is known to be the major predisposing factor for laryngeal cancer. However, alcohol use, nutritional deficiencies, genetic predisposition and viral factors may also play a role. The vast majority (85-90%) of cancers of the larynx are squamous cell carcinomas that arise from the covering of the vocal cords.


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