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Causes of Parotid Tumors

The first question many patients want answered when they are diagnosed with a parotid tumor is what caused this tumor to develop. The causes of parotid tumors are generally unknown at this time.

To date, very few environmental and lifestyle factors have been identified as risk factors for developing parotid tumors.

While tobacco smoking has the highest association with parotid tumors, that association is only with certain parotid tumors, such as a Warthin tumor.

There is currently no knowledge of genetic disorders being associated with primary parotid tumors. Other factors that have been associated with causing malignant parotid tumors are ionizing radiation and suppression of the immune system.

There has been some indication that people who have received radiation near the head and neck area during treatment of other conditions could potentially be at risk of developing a parotid tumor.

Click here to learn more about this topic in our podcast series, Parotid Tumor Podcast. 

Parotid Tumor Research

Although there have been some recent research studies that have suggested that excessive use of cell phones could contribute to the development of parotid tumors, there is not enough medical data and research currently available to definitively identify excessive cell phone usage as a cause for parotid tumors.

Additional research is needed to help identify risk factors and to determine definitive causes of parotid tumors. 

A core part of the Parotid Patient Project’s mission is to generate funds for research to identify the causes of parotid tumors and to advance the diagnosis, management, and outcomes for parotid gland diseases.

Visit the How To Help section to learn how you can help us accomplish our mission.


1. Olsen, KD (1987). The Parotid Lump-Don't Biopsy It! In KD Olsen, Salivary Gland Disease and Treatment (pp. 5-11). Rochester, MN: Mayo Clinic Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery.

2. Olsen, KD (2000). Carcinoma of the Major Salivary Glands. In KD Olsen, Salivary Gland Disease and Treatment (pp. 174-184). Rochester, MN: Mayo Clinic Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery.

3. The content in this section was drafted in consultation with Eric J. Moore, M.D., and Kerry D. Olsen, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.