The incidence of human papillomavirus (HPV)-positive oropharyngeal head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC) was twice that of HPV-negative disease from 2013 to 2014, according a recently published study.

Using data from 12,017 patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma of pharyngeal subsites taken from The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) HPV Status Database, researchers determined the US incidence of HPV-positive OPSCC was 4.62 per 100,000 persons compared with 1.82 per 100,000 persons for HPV-negative disease. 

Patients who were white (5.47 per 100,000) and those who were male (8.00 per 100,000) had the highest incidences of HPV-positive OPSCC. Overall, white men aged younger than 65 years had the highest incidence of HPV-positive OPSCC (9.34 per 100,000), with a peak rate of 27.23 per 100,000 among those aged 60 to 64 years. 

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“As such, HPV-positive OPSCC represents the sixth most common incident non-skin solid cancer in the US,” the researchers wrote. “This group should serve as a target population for scientific and policy or public health initiatives focused on addressing the increasing burden of HPV-positive OPSCC.”

Diagnosis of HPV-positive disease was associated with a lower cancer-specific mortality than HPV-negative disease for OPSCC (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR], 0.40; P <.001), but not for non-OPSCC (aHR, 1.08; P =.081). 


Mahal BA, Catalano PJ, Haddad RI, et al. Incidence and demographic burden of HPV-positive oropharyngeal head and neck cancers in the United States [published online July 29, 2019]. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-19-0038