Infection contributes to the high rates of oropharyngeal cancers

August 27, 2007

Though the overall incidence of head and neck cancers has fallen in the United States, the rate of oropharyngeal (chiefly, tonsil and base of tongue) cancers is stagnant and appears to be rising is certain populations and these trends are likely due to oncogenic human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. A review published in the October 1, 2007 issue of CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, finds an increasing trend in the incidence of oropharyngeal cancers, particularly among men under 45 years old, for which HPV infection is the likely cause.

Cancers of the head and neck, which include cancers of the larynx, nasal passages/nose, oral cavity, pharynx, and salivary glands, account for three percent of all newly diagnosed cancers in the U.S. Men are three times more likely to be diagnosed with these cancers than women. Of the estimated 45,000 new cases of head and neck cancers expected this year, approximately 10,000 are cancers of the pharynx (chiefly the oropharynx). Though the prognosis for these cancers is excellent when caught early, more than half of them are identified in advanced stages, when the prognosis is far worse, making prevention critical to saving lives.

In their review, Erich M. Sturgis, M.D., M.P.H. and Paul Cinciripini, Ph.D. of The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, conclude that the stagnate incidence rates of oropharyngeal cancers, particularly cancers of the tonsil and base of tongue, in the face of declines in tobacco use, the principal cause of head and neck cancers, are likely explained by rising prevalence of oropharyngeal exposure to an oncogenic virus. They say the literature points to exposure to HPV – especially strain 16 – as having the strongest association to oropharyngeal cancers. However, the authors suggest that a recently approved HPV vaccine may ultimately have a significant impact on the incidence of oropharyngeal tumors.

“While the cervical cancer and dysplasia prevention policy of HPV16/18 vaccination of young women and adolescent females are commended, we fear that vaccination programs limited to females will only delay the potential benefit in prevention of HPV16/18 associated oropharyngeal cancers, which typically occur in men,” conclude the authors.

The authors “encourage the rapid study of the efficacy and safety of these vaccines in males and, if successful, the recommendation of vaccination of young adult and adolescent males.”

Source: John Wiley & Sons

Explore further: HPV-positive tumor status indicates better survival in patients with oropharyngeal cancer

Related Stories

Tumor virus is best predictor of throat cancer survival

June 7, 2010

The presence of human papilloma virus, the virus that causes cervical cancer, in tumors is the most important predictor of survival for people diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer (cancer of the back of the mouth), according ...

Studies link insurance coverage to more advanced cancers

June 11, 2007

Two new studies find the uninsured and people with certain types of public health insurance are more likely to be diagnosed with more advanced cancer compared to those with private insurance. The studies, published in the ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

( -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.