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Salivary Gland Cancer Risk Factors

Because salivary gland cancer is a rare cancer, experts have not been able to draw very many conclusions about the possible causes.

Research shows that a history of radiation exposure greatly increases a person’s chances for developing the disease. Other risk factors include a history of skin cancer, being older in age, and being male.

History of radiation exposure

People who have received radiation therapy as part of treatment for head and neck cancer are at a greater risk. So are people who have been exposed to radiation in the workplace.

Gender

Cancer in the salivary glands is more common in men than women.

Age

Most people are in their 50s or 60s when diagnosed with salivary gland cancer.

Other Risk Factors for Salivary Gland Cancer

Here are some other possible risk factors for salivary gland cancer. More research is needed to better understand the links.

Tobacco

Tobacco includes both smoking and smokeless tobacco (snuff and chewing tobacco).

If you smoke or chew tobacco, you can reduce your risk for many types of cancer — and the risk for those around you — by stopping now. If you’ve been diagnosed with salivary gland cancer or are in treatment, it’s not too late to quit.

Learn more about the Tobacco Treatment Program at Memorial Sloan Kettering.

Alcohol

There is a strong link between alcohol consumption and certain mouth cancers. Research suggests there may also be a connection between drinking alcohol and salivary gland cancer, but the data is not conclusive.

Exposure to toxins in the workplace

Some research suggests that people are more likely to develop salivary gland cancer if they have regular exposure to the following:

  • certain metals, such as nickel alloy dust
  • certain minerals, including silica dust
  • asbestos mining
  • plumbing equipment
  • rubber manufacturing
  • certain types of woodworking