Oropharyngeal cancers, including cancers of the tonsils, soft palate, posterior pharynx, and base of the tongue are not diseases that most otolaryngologists-head and neck surgeons come across in their day-to-day practice. In fact, the American Cancer Society estimates that only 8950 new cases of pharyngeal cancer, including cancers of the oropharynx and hypopharynx, are diagnosed each year in the United States, with an estimated mortality of 2,100 annually (CA Cancer J Clin. 2006; 56(2):106-130). Men are three times more likely to be afflicted than women, and onset is usually around 60 years of age.
Explore this issue:September 2006
However, in recent decades, we have seen a rise in oropharyngeal cancer in patients under 45 years of age. These patients don’t fit the risk profile with typical exposures to tobacco or alcohol. – -Erich M. Sturgis, MD, MPH
Younger Patient Population Reveals New Risk Factor
However, in recent decades, we have seen a rise in oropharyngeal cancer in patients under 45 years of age, said Erich M. Sturgis, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Head and Neck Surgery and Epidemiology at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center and an ENToday Editorial Board member. These patients don’t fit the risk profile with typical exposures to tobacco or alcohol, whereas in the past, 85% to 95% of oropharyngeal cancer patients had a history of such exposures.