(HealthDay News) — The incidence of oropharyngeal cancer is rising rapidly in patients younger than 45 years, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiation Oncology, held from Sept. 22 to 25 in Atlanta.

Farzan Siddiqui, M.D., Ph.D., from the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, and colleagues used the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database to identify adults (73 percent Caucasian) younger than age 45 years of age who had been diagnosed with invasive squamous cell oropharyngeal cancer between 1973 and 2009.

The researchers found that, over the 36-year period, overall, there was a 60 percent increase in cancers of the base of tongue, tonsils, soft palate, and pharynx in people younger than 45 years. The rate of increase was 113 percent in Caucasians, while among African-Americans, these cancers declined by 52 percent. The majority of patients (50 to 65 percent) underwent surgical resection for their tumors. For the whole cohort, the five-year survival was 54 percent and was highest in patients who had both surgery and radiation therapy. Survival did not differ by gender; however, African-Americans had significantly poorer survival compared to other races.

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“Not only were we surprised to find a substantial increase in young adults with cancer of the tonsils and base of tongue, but also a wide deviation among Caucasians and African-Americans with this cancer,” Siddiqui said in a statement.

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