(HealthDay News) — From 1973 to 2009, the incidence of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC) increased in patients younger than 45 years, according to a study published online Jan. 22 in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

Omar H. Gayar, MD, from the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, and colleagues used data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results 9 database from 1973 to 2009 to examine the incidence, treatment methods, and outcomes for 1,603 OPSCC patients younger than 45 years.

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The researchers found that, during the study period, there was an increase in incidence in patients aged 36 to 44 years, from 0.79 to 1.39 per 100,000. During the same time period, the rate increased from 0.20 to 0.42 in whites and decreased from 0.67 to 0.32 in African-Americans. 

There was a steady and significant increase in the proportion of grade III/IV tumors, from 28% in 1973-1979 to 43% in 2000-2009 (P < 0.0001). A total of 13.72% of patients were treated with surgery alone, and 45.79% were treated with surgery in combination with radiation therapy. 

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For the study cohort, the 5-year survival was 54%, with worse survival seen for African-American versus white patients (P < 0.0001). The highest 5-year survival was seen for those who underwent surgery, either alone or in combination with radiation, followed by those who had radiation.

“The rising incidence within recent decades is thought to be related to human papillomavirus transmission and changes in sexual practices,” the researchers wrote.


  1. Gayar OH, Ruterbusch JJ, Elshaikh M, et al. Oropharyngeal Carcinoma in Young Adults: An Alarming National Trend. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2014;doi:10.1177/0194599813519738.