By DrBicuspid Staff, Brian Casey, editorial director

January 9, 2017 -- The number of new cases of cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx in men is expected to increase to more than 35,000 in the U.S. in 2017, according to a report on cancer mortality published January 5 by the American Cancer Society (ACS). The report estimates that 7,000 men will die from these cancers in 2017.

The same level of increase in these cancers is not expected in women, however, with the report authors projecting just under 14,000 new cases in 2017 and fewer than 3,000 deaths. The report was published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

The expected increase in these cancers (4%) is the ninth-highest rate of increase in men among all cancers. In women, the anticipated increase does not make the list of 10 highest expected increases.

The report points to an ongoing decline in the overall cancer death rate in the U.S., measured at 2.1 million fewer cancer deaths from 1991 to 2014. The overall cancer death rate dropped 25% in the U.S. over the period covered by the report, which the ACS issues annually on cancer incidence, mortality, and survival in the U.S.

Overall cancer death rate declines

The ACS estimated that in 2017 there will be 1.7 million new cancer cases and 601,000 cancer deaths in the U.S. The cancer death rate has declined about 1.5% in men and women, driven mainly by lower death rates from lung cancer as fewer Americans -- particularly men -- are smoking. With respect to cancer incidence, the rate dropped 2% in men and remained stable in women.

Indeed, the cancer death rate has dropped from a peak of 215.1 deaths per 100,000 individuals in 1991 to 161.2 deaths in 2014, a decline of 25%. The death rate has fallen 31% in men since 1990 and 21% in women since 1991, translating to 2.1 million fewer deaths over the report period. Still, the cancer death rate is 40% higher in men than women.

The ACS attributed the decline to "steady reductions in smoking and advances in early detection and treatment" that have resulted in lower mortality rates for four major cancers: lung, breast, prostate, and colorectal. Specifically, lung cancer death rates fell 43% for men and 17% for women due to lower tobacco use; since the U.S. surgeon general's landmark report on smoking and health in 1964, 8 million premature smoking-related deaths have been averted.

The ACS also found that racial disparities in cancer mortality are narrowing. Black men have historically had a higher risk of cancer death, but that difference dropped from 47% in 1990 to 21% in 2014. The disparity between black and white women also declined, from a high of 20% in 1998 to 13% in 2014.

The ACS found that better access to healthcare as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) may help accelerate the narrowing racial gap -- at least while the ACA remains in effect. While the cancer death rate was 15% higher in blacks than in whites in 2014, from 2010 to 2015 the proportion of blacks who were uninsured dropped in half, from 21% to 11%. Hispanics also saw gains, from a 31% uninsured rate to 16%.

Estimated new cases and deaths from cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx in 2017
Cancer Estimated new cases Estimated deaths
  Both sexes Male Female Both sexes Male Female
Oral cavity & pharynx 49,670 35,720 13,950 9,700 7,000 2,700
Tongue 16,400 11,880 4,520 2,400 1,670 730
Mouth 13,210 7,800 5,410 2,580 1,680 900
Pharynx 17,000 13,780 3,220 3,050 2,340 710
Other oral cavity 3,060 2,260 800 1,670 1,310 360

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