Causes of Tongue Cancer

What are some of the known causes of tongue cancer?

Doctors and scientists do not know what all of the exact causes of tongue cancer are. However, they have identified a number of risk factors that are known to damage the cells on the tongue which can then lead to the development of cancer cells. Some people who exhibit all the risk factors for tongue cancer will not develop the disease, while an individual with no risk factors will. It is these cases that make the study of the causes of tongue cancer very difficult because there is still so much unknown. However, it is known that partaking in the following risk factors/potential causes of tongue cancer significantly increase your chance of developing cancer on your tongue.

Some of the most notable risk factors and causes of tongue cancer include:

  • Tobacco Use (including cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, cigars, pipes, gutka, etc…)
  • Excessive use of alcohol (often considered the regular consumption of more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women)
  • Age, gender and family history

Tobacco and Alcohol as Causes of Tongue Cancer

Studies have shown that using either tobacco or alcohol alone can significantly increase your risk of developing tongue cancer. If both are frequently used the risk of developing tongue cancer is even higher. In fact, most people with tongue cancer use or have used tobacco and many are frequent drinkers as well. Doctors and scientists believe that both tobacco and heavy alcohol use damage the DNA of cells on the tongue. The DNA is the part of a cell that tells it how to function. When the DNA is damaged by tobacco and/or alcohol the damaged cells begin to multiply and reproduce rapidly to repair the damage. This leads to a higher chance of them reproducing incorrectly, which increases the chance of them becoming cancerous. As these damaged cells begin to rapidly reproduce they do not die as they should and begin form tumors. Not all tumors are cancerous, but they are an indication that something is wrong and should be checked out by a doctor.

Go to this link from the American Cancer Society for tons of information on Tobacco and Cancer

Visit these links from the American Cancer Society for more information on Alcohol and Cancer and Limiting Alcohol to Lower Cancer Risk

Age, Gender and Family History as Causes of Tongue Cancer

While age, gender and family history cannot be controlled, it is important to know that as you age your risk of developing tongue cancer increases, especially if you are a man and use tobacco and/or alcohol regularly. Some people inherit damaged DNA from their parents putting them at a higher risk for developing tongue cancer. Even though this is much less common for all types of oral cancers (including cancer of the tongue), as compared to cancer in other parts of the body, it is still considered one of the possible causes of tongue cancer.

Visit the link below form the American Cancer Society for more information on genetics as a cause of cancer.

Genetics and Cancer

Want even more information on causes of tongue cancer?

Because tongue cancer is one type of oral cancer and many of their causes are the same we recommend visiting our page on Causes of Oral Cancer.

Our area dedicated to Tongue Cancer Resources will connect you to additional sites and articles with tons of information on the causes of tongue cancer.

Also, the pages below will provide you with more information on all aspects of tongue cancer.


Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer. American Cancer Society. Accessed January 4, 2012.

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    All content on this site is for general information purposes only. It is not and should not be considered medical advice or used in place of the advice of a medical professional. Always seek the advice of a doctor or other professional for any medical condition.