Prevalence of Oropharyngeal Cancer Survivors on the Rise

The prevalence of survivors of oropharyngeal cancer is rising in the United States.
The prevalence of survivors of oropharyngeal cancer is rising in the United States.

The prevalence of survivors of oropharyngeal cancer is rising in the United States, while the prevalence of oral cavity cancer survivors is declining, a study published in the journal Cancer has shown.1

Although the incidence of oropharyngeal cancer and a subtype of oral cavity cancer is increasing in the United States, there have been limited data on the presumed increasing prevalence of survivors of these 2 head and neck cancers.

For the retrospective study, researchers analyzed data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database to estimate changes in incidence, 5-year cause-specific survival, and prevalence for oropharyngeal cancer and oral cavity cancer.

Results showed that the incidence of oropharyngeal cancer rose by 62.6% from 1975 through 2012, whereas the incidence of oral cavity cancer declined by 22.3% during the same period.

Researchers found that the increase in incidence of oropharyngeal cancer was most notable among men, white persons, and younger people. Although the incidence of this head and neck cancer subtype increased, 5-year survival for the disease also increased significantly among patients of all sexes, races, and those older than 30 years, but it was especially improved for whites and males.

In terms of oral cavity cancer, the incidence decreased across all groups but increased among people age 30 to 39 years. Researchers also observed significant increases in survival for oral cavity cancer, except for patients who were female, black, and younger than 40 years.

Further, the study demonstrated that the prevalence of survivors of oropharyngeal cancer significantly increased from 2000 to 2012 (P<.0001), whereas the prevalence of survivors of oral cavity cancer decreased (P<.0001).


1. Patel MA, Blackford AL, Rettig EM, et al. Rising population of survivors of oral squamous cell cancer in the United States [published online ahead of print March 7, 2016]. Cancer. doi:10.1002/ccr.29921.

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