Head and Neck Cancer

Globally, HNC accounts for approximately 550,000 cases annually (Fitzmaurice et al., 2017; Thompson, 2014). In the United States, about 3% of all cancers are HNC, with approximately 63,000 Americans developing head and neck malignancies annually (Jemal, Siegel, Xu, & Ward, 2010; Siegel, Miller, & Jemal, 2017).

Overall, HNC is more commonly seen in men than in women (American Cancer Society, 2017a). U.S. statistics are reported below by type of HNC.

  • Oral cavity/pharynx: The incidence of cancer involving the oral cavity/pharynx is 11.4 per 100,000 persons per year. The estimated number of new cancer cases involving the oral cavity and pharynx is 49,670 for 2017 (American Cancer Society, 2017b).
  • Larynx: The incidence of laryngeal cancer is 3.6 per 100,000 persons per year. The estimated number of new cancer cases involving the larynx is 13,360 for 2017 (American Cancer Society, 2017c).
  • Nasopharynx: The incidence of nasopharyngeal cancer is less than 1 per 100,000 persons per year. The estimated number of new cases in the United States was 3,200 for 2015 (American Cancer Society, 2016c).
  • Nasal cavity/paranasal sinus: Each year, approximately 2,000 people are diagnosed with nasal cavity or paranasal cancer in the United States (American Cancer Society, 2016b).
  • Hypopharynx: The incidence of hypopharyngeal cancer is slightly less than 1 per 100,000 persons (American Cancer Society, 2017a). Each year, approximately 3,000 adults in the United States are diagnosed with hypopharyngeal cancer (American Cancer Society, 2017c).

Overall, the incidence of HNC in the United States has been declining, presumably due to a reduced prevalence of cigarette smoking among adults. However, over the past few decades, there has been a rise in HPV-related oropharyngeal cancers (American Cancer Society, 2016a; Chaturvedi et al., 2011).

The proportion of oropharyngeal cancers testing positive for HPV is now approximately 70% (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017; Chaturvedi et al., 2011), which is a substantial increase from previous rates (Mehanna et al., 2012).

According to a 2008–2012 U.S. surveillance report (Viens et al., 2016), an estimated 15,738 HPV-associated oropharyngeal squamous cell cancers are diagnosed annually, the majority of which (12,638) were reported in males. An additional population-based surveillance study from 1988 to 2004 (Chaturvedi et al., 2011) reported a 225% increase in oropharyngeal HPV-related cancers (0.8 per 100,000 persons to 2.6 per 100,000 persons).

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