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Make Sense Campaign

Head and Neck Cancer:
A preventable, yet widely unknown
European health crisis

Head and neck cancer is a way of describing any cancer that is found in the head or neck region, except in the eyes, brain, ears or oesophagus. The cancers usually begin in the squamous cells that line the moist, mucosal surfaces inside the head and neck (for example: inside the mouth, nose and throat). There are more than 30 areas within the head and neck where cancer can develop.

Head and neck cancer is the seventh most common type of cancer in Europe. It is about half as common as lung cancer, but twice as common as cervical cancer. There were approximately 140,000 new patients diagnosed in Europe in 2014.


  • Smoking: Smokers have a higher risk than non-smokers. Actually, a person who smokes will be 15 times more likely to develop head and neck cancer than a non-smoker.
  • Alcohol: Men who consume more than three units and women who consume more than two units of alcohol per day are at a significantly higher risk of developing head and neck cancer.
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV): Associated with causing a number of head and neck cancers; it can cause cancers of the throat, tongue and tonsils, otherwise known as oropharyngeal cancers (OPSCC).

Call to Action to Drive Change for Head And Neck Cancer
Patients in Europe

We call on the European Commission to:

  • Actively engage in prevention strategies for head and neck cancer.

  • Support early diagnosis and referral to qualified healthcare professionals.

  • Promote multidisciplinary care as a standardised best practice approach for patients across Europe.

  • Advocate for highest standards of post-treatment care.

  • Dedicate EU and national research and innovation funds and support further research on head and neck cancer to improve prevention strategies, treatment options, rehabilitation, and survivorship programmes, and ultimately outcomes, for all patients