Chapter 8. Hereditary Cancer in the Head and Neck

  1. Prof. Dr. Heike Allgayer PhD2,
  2. Prof. Dr. Helga Rehder3 and
  3. Prof. Dr. Simone Fulda4
  1. Barbara Wollenberg

Published Online: 21 AUG 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9783527627523.ch8

Hereditary Tumors: From Genes to Clinical Consequences

Hereditary Tumors: From Genes to Clinical Consequences

How to Cite

Wollenberg, B. (2008) Hereditary Cancer in the Head and Neck, in Hereditary Tumors: From Genes to Clinical Consequences (eds H. Allgayer, H. Rehder and S. Fulda), Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim, Germany. doi: 10.1002/9783527627523.ch8

Editor Information

  1. 2

    University of Heidelberg and DKFZ (German Cancer Research Center) Heidelberg, Medical Faculty Mannheim, Chair of Experimental Surgery, Theodor-Kutzer-Ufer 1–3, 68167 Mannheim, Germany

  2. 3

    Medical University Vienna, Department of Medical Genetics, Währinger Strasse 10, 1090 Wien, Austria

  3. 4

    Ulm University Children's Hospital, Eythstrasse 24, 89075 Ulm, Germany

Author Information

  1. Universitätsklinikum Schleswig-Holstein, Campus Lübeck, Klinik für Hals-Nasen-Ohren-Heilkunde, Ratzeburger Allee 160, 23538 Lübeck, Germany

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 21 AUG 2009
  2. Published Print: 17 DEC 2008

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9783527320288

Online ISBN: 9783527627523



  • detoxification;
  • environmental;
  • immunosuppressive;
  • nasopharyngeal;
  • oral cancer


Several studies have been conducted to investigate genetic mechanisms in cancer origin and pathogenesis, in head and neck cancer. The idea behind this was to detect specific chromosomal defects in normal cells of cancer patients and their first degree relatives, to intensify the possibilities for prevention or early detection, if not even new therapeutic strategies, for these cancers. Up to the current state of knowledge, there is clear evidence that Head and Neck Squamous Cell Cancer (HNSCC) is directly or indirectly caused by environmental factors, predominantly smoking (active or passive), and in a second step due the immunosuppressive effect of alcohol. It is difficult to depict the increased relative risk of first degree relatives (about 3 to 5 times) to develop HNSCC from familial habits, as so far there is no evidence for a shared genetic event that could be responsible for a cancerous origin. Nevertheless, there are several genetic factors that are clearly altering the genetic susceptibility for HNSCC, for example, the capacity for detoxifying the consumption of noxious substances, or the frequency of the presence of fragile sites. Future studies will be necessary to clarify the issue of familial origin of HNSCC.