Most laryngeal cancers originate from epithelial cells lining the inner wall of the glottis, the segment of the larynx located below the vestibule and above the epiglottic cavity, which includes both vocal cords.
Although less common, the cancer can also develop in the part of the larynx located above the vocal cords and under the epiglottis. When that happens, the cancer tends to cause difficult painful swallowing. Cancers that form under the vocal cords cause symptoms at early stage, which leads to an early diagnosis.
Although all causes of laryngeal cancer are not known, its primary causative factor is smoking. The risk is even higher when smoking is associated with heavy and regular alcohol consumption, another causative factor of laryngeal cancer. It is estimated that heavy smokers have about 20 times more chance to die from cancer of the larynx than non smokers do.
Tobacco contains toxic substances such as tar and benzopyrene. Once in the aerodigestive tract, tobacco smoke and the harmful substances directly alter the lining of the larynx by changing the morphology of the tissue and increase the air temperature inside the larynx to 42 ° C. Persistence in this practice will lead to microdamage (invisible to the naked eye) to the mucous membrane of the larynx, which will, sooner or later, turn into cancer.