DETROIT A new study reveals an alarming increase in oropharyngeal cancers among young adults. While the exact cause for this phenomenon is unknown, the human papillomavirus (HPV) may be to blame.
According to researchers from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit there was an overall 60 percent increase from 1973 and 2009 in cancers of the base of tongue, tonsils, soft palate and pharynx in people younger than age 45.
Among Caucasians, there was a 113 percent increase, while among African-Americans the rate of these cancers declined by 52 percent during that period of time.
But compared to Caucasians and other races, the five-year survival rate remains worse for African Americans.
The study is published online ahead of print in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, the official journal of American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.
"The growing incidence in oropharyngeal cancer has been largely attributed to the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, which led to an increased transmission of high-risk HPV," says study lead author Farzan Siddiqui, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Head & Neck Radiation Therapy Program in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Henry Ford Hospital.
"We were interested in looking at people born during that time period and incidence of oropharyngeal cancer. Not only were we surprised to find a substantial increase in young adults with cancer of the tonsils and base of tongue, but also a wide deviation among Caucasians and African Americans with this cancer."
The American Cancer Society estimates about 36,000 people in the U.S. will get oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers in 2013; an estimated 6,850 people will die of these cancers. Oropharyngeal cancers are more than twice as common in men as in women, and about equally common in African Americans and Caucasians.
Recent medical research has shown that HPV exposure and infection increases
|Contact: Krista Hopson|
Henry Ford Health System