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Unexpected bleeding from anywhere is cause for alarm. Persistent bleeding should always be investigated because it may be the earliest sign of cancer. Fortunately, nosebleeds are rarely a sign of cancer. A much more common cause of nosebleeds is injury from picking or blowing or fisticuffs. People with have swollen membranes that are fragile and more likely to bleed.

Most nosebleeds (about 90%) come from the front of the septum, that plane of cartilage that separates the nostrils. These are called anterior nosebleeds. The lower front part of the septum has a mass of blood vessels on either side called Kiesselbach's plexus that is easy to injure. Nosebleeds from the more remote reaches of the nose are called posterior nosebleeds. They are less common, are less likely to have a benign cause, and are much harder to manage.

Nosebleeds are most likely to occur in children between the ages of two and 10 years, in part because younger children frequently insert small objects in the nose or pick at the tissues lining the nose. Nosebleeds in adolescents may indicate cocaineabuse. Nosebleeds in older adults may result from arteriosclerosis or high blood pressure.

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