Cancer report shows oral, pharyngeal cancers on the rise

By Amerigo Allegretto, contributing writer

July 9, 2021 -- Oral and pharyngeal cancers are on the rise in the U.S., according to a July 8 report from researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and prominent cancer societies. Death rates for oropharyngeal cancers are also increasing for some groups.

The report, titled "Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer," appeared in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Death rates from cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx have increased by 0.6% per year for men and remained stable for women, the researchers found. Incidence rates of oropharyngeal cancer also increased for both men and women by 0.9% and 0.5% per year, respectively.

These trends contradict the larger findings of the report in which overall cancer death rates have declined for men and women, as well as for all racial and ethnic groups. The increase in oropharyngeal cancer cases likely stems from changes in sexual practices and smoking rates, the authors noted.

"As shown in previous studies, the increasing incidence trends are limited to cancers in subsites with a strong association with human papillomavirus infection (such as tonsil and oropharynx), likely due to changes in sexual practices, whereas rates are declining in other subsites, largely due to decline in smoking prevalence," wrote the authors, led by Dr. Farhad Islami, PhD, from the American Cancer Society.

When looking at all cancers combined, overall cancer death rates are down by 2.2% per year for men and 1.7% for women. The cancer incidence rate for men stayed relatively stable, while women experienced a slight increase of 0.2% per year. Incidence rates are also rising for children, adolescents, and young adults.

"Cancer death rates in the United States continue to decline overall and for many cancer types, with the decline accelerated by lung cancer and melanoma," the authors concluded.

The researchers determined cancer incidence and death rates using data from U.S. cancer registry programs. Annual percentage change results spanned the years of 2014-2018 for death rates and 2013-2017 for incidence rates. All trends in this report cover the period between 2001 and 2018 and, therefore, do not include changes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Copyright © 2021

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