What are the risk factors for tracheal diseases?

Risk factors vary by disease. In some cases, no cause for a tracheal disease can be identified.

Adenoid cystic carcinomas are found in men and women between the ages of 40 and 60. Smoking is not a risk factor for this type of cancer.

Squamous cell carcinoma is more common in men than in women, and smoking is the main risk factor.

Carcinoid tumors can occur at any age, but are most common between the ages of 40 and 60.

Most cases develop when scar tissue develops in a person’s trachea due to prolonged intubation — when a breathing tube is inserted into the trachea to help maintain breathing during a medical procedure — or from a tracheostomy, surgery to create an opening in the neck to access the trachea.

Tracheal stenosis can develop when scar tissue develops in a person’s trachea due to prolonged intubation — when a breathing tube is inserted into the trachea to help maintain breathing during a medical procedure — or from a tracheostomy, surgery to create an opening in the neck to access the trachea. It can also develop from external injury to the throat; a benign or malignant tumor pressing on the trachea; certain autoimmune disorders (polychondritis, sarcoidosis, papillomatosis, amyloidosis, and Wegener’s granulomatosis); and infections. Tracheal stenosis can sometimes be a side effect of radiation therapy used to treat a tumor in the head or neck.

Tracheobronchomalacia most commonly develops from a type of lung disease called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is usually caused by smoking. Other causes of tracheobronchomalacia include:

  • Repeated infections
  • Injury after prolonged intubation, when a breathing tube is inserted into the trachea to help maintain breathing during a medical procedure
  • Injury from a tracheostomy, which is a surgery to create an opening in the neck to access the trachea
  • Tumors or blood vessels pressing on the windpipe
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Having a breathing tube inserted for a long time

What can you do to prevent tracheal diseases?


The most important thing you can do to prevent cancerous tracheal diseases is to quit smoking — or never start. Quitting can also help in the treatment and management of other tracheal diseases. Talk to your doctor if you need help quitting; most people do.
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