People who have never smoked more than four cigarettes a day have the same risk, almost none, as the rest of the population.
Cancers of the head and neck (nostrils, oropharynx, rhinopharynx, hypopharynx, larynx, thyroid, salivary glands and sinuses) are the fourth most prevalent among men and the fifth among women, with an annual incidence of 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in Spain. Of those cases, more than 95% are due to regular smoking.
“Even if they stop smoking, ex-smokers are not significantly free of their predisposition to head and neck cancer until at least six years later and their risk factor cannot be compared to that of a non-smoker until 12 years later”, explains Dr Eduardo Raboso, Head of the Head and Neck Surgery Service at MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid. If frequent consumption of alcohol is added to the habit of smoking, the probabilities of contracting cancer multiply.
On the positive side, specialists say that most head and neck cancers have a particularly favorable prognosis, like a tumor of the larynx which, in the early stages, has cure rate of almost 100%.
But to achieve that cure rate, experts insist on the importance of consulting a multidisciplinary, specialized unit which can evaluate the patient integrally from the outset, as there are currently protocols in place allowing the disease to be cured, even in advanced cases, without the need for mutilating surgery.