The larynx, also called the voice box or Adam's apple, is the part of the body that allows humans to produce sounds and speech. The larynx contains the vocal cords (glottis), which vibrate when air passes through. The epiglottis is a small flap of cartilage found at the top of the larynx. The epiglottis protects the airways by keeping food and saliva from going down the trachea (the "windpipe" tube that leads to the lungs).
Cancer of the larynx can occur on the glottis (most laryngeal cancers are there), the supraglottis (the area above the vocal cords that includes the epiglottis), or the subglottis (the area that connects the larynx to the trachea).
Cancer of the larynx affects more men then women, although more women are developing it today due to an increase in smoking in the female population.
Although the exact cause of cancer is unknown, some known risk factors for cancer of the larynx include:
- smoking: The risk of laryngeal cancer increases up to 30 times for smokers. The heavier the person smokes, the higher the risk. Secondhand smoke is also considered a hazard.
- gastroesophageal reflux disease
- poor nutrition
- human papillomavirus
- weakened immune system
- toxic exposure
- voice overuse