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Second tumours in head and neck cancer patients and the use of retinoids for prevention

Epidemiological studies from the USA suggest that the chance of a second cancer after one squamous head and neck cancer has been diagnosed (a risk that has been known to be high for many years), is highest in smoking patients (the majority) and the site of the second cancer is far and away most likely to be in the lung for patients whose first cancer is in the larynx and in the oral cavity or lung in patients whose first cancer is in the oral cavity.
The use of retinoids (differentiation agents that may stop the malignant change in predisposed epithelium- the lining cells of the aero-digestive tract, from which all squamous cancers arise – is becoming placed on a surer footing due to an increase in amount of data that suggests that such therapy reduces the incidence of such second cancers – mainly in the head and neck region, less so in the lung.