The main risk factors for developing this type of cancer are smoking and regularly drinking a lot of alcohol. If you smoke and drink a lot together, you increase your risk even further.
Cancer of the tonsil has been linked to a virus called human papilloma virus (HPV). There are a number of different types of HPV. Some cause warts on the genital area or skin. Other types increase the risk of some types of cancer including cancer of the cervix, vagina, vulva, penis and anus. Researchers have found that the type of HPV that increases the risk of these cancers also increases the risk of oropharynx cancers including cancer of the tonsil. This type of HPV is called HPV16. Researchers are looking into how HPV of the mouth is passed on. There is some evidence to show that it is passed on through sexual contact through oral sex but it may also be passed on through mouth to mouth contact or in other ways.
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