Does Adele Have Throat Cancer?

About Dr. Reena Gupta

Dr. Reena Gupta is the Director of the Division of Voice and Laryngology at OHNI. Dr. Gupta has devoted her practice to the care of patients with voice problems. She is board certified in otolaryngology and laryngology and fellowship trained in laryngology, specializing in the care of the professional voice.

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Does Adele have throat cancer?
Does Adele have throat cancer?

With two cancelled tours in as many months, people are wondering about Adele’s voice.  Could this really be something as routine as laryngitis and a vocal hemorrhage as she claims? Or is there something more sinister going on?

It is common knowledge that Adele smokes.  Indeed, I blogged about that and my fears for her voice just a few days before the first cancelled tour.  It was one of those things I hated to be right about.  I would much have preferred to look at that post in a few years and laugh that I had worried about her.

Unfortunately my words proved prophetic and we are looking at the beginning of a long period of recovery for this gifted artist.  But is she really just recovering from a vocal hemorrhage?

In my opinion, her claims of hemorrhage and laryngitis are true.  She is a young artist with a bad habit.  Smoking can cause both laryngitis and hemorrhage.  As a matter of fact, smoking one cigarette a day is enough to cause these problems.

Laryngitis simply means inflammation of the throat and the toxins and chemicals in cigarettes, when they are inhaled past your vocal folds, cause instant inflammation.

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A vocal hemorrhage happens with vocal trauma, be it excessive voice use, loud voice use, or using your voice with poor technique.

Vocal Hemorrhage

When cigarettes are added to excessive voice use, you are a set up for a hemorrhage.

So I do really believe that Adele has suffered a vocal hemorrhage?

In medicine, we have a saying “when you hear hoofbeats, think of horses, not zebras.” This means that when you see a patient, think of things that should commonly affect that patient.  Don’t worry about the rare things initially.  Factor in a patient’s:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Symptoms
  • History (family history, smoking history, etc)
  • Examination

In Adele’s case we don’t have the benefit of some of these factors but the first is the most important.  Although she smokes, she is 23 years old. Even if she smokes two packs per day, and has been for a decade, it is nearly impossible to develop smoking-related cancer at such a young age.  Other cancers do occur in this age group, but not those that arise from smoking.

By no means does this mean smoking is harmless if you are young.  Even if she quits now, Adele is at risk for cancer for the rest of her life.  Further, smoking has multiple other effects that may develop at this age:

  • chronic laryngitis (hoarseness is often permanent)
  • asthma
  • gingivitis
  • infertility
  • hearing loss
  • and anxiety, to name a few

The most important thing if you are a smoker, especially a singer who smokes, is to get checked out.  Find out if you have early signs of smoking-related damage such as

  • laryngitis
  • polypoid corditis (also called Reinke’s edema or smoker’s voice)
  • lesions that may become cancer
  • cancer
Normal voice box; notice the healthy pink color white appearance of vocal cords.
Larynx of a smoker with chronic laryngitis. Note the mucous, redness, general irritation and swelling.
Polypoid corditis. Smoking results in multiple polyps forming on the vocal cords. These require surgery.
Pre-cancerous changes on vocal cord.

Stroboscopy can determine this for you.  If you are lucky and have avoided getting these complications, stop now, before you do.  If you unfortunately have one of these complications, there are options.   For example, laser treatments can treat pre-cancerous lesions without surgery.  But for you to take action, you need to have your voice checked, before your tour has to be cancelled.

To learn more about Dr. Reena Gupta or throat cancer, visit:

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