Background: Although tobacco- and alcohol-associated head and neck cancers are declining in the developed world, potentially human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated oropharnygeal cancers are increasing.
Methods: We analysed oropharyngeal and oral cavity cancer rates in Australia in 1982-2005. Cancers from the oropharynx (base of tongue, tonsil and other specific oropharyngeal sites) were classified as potentially HPV associated (n=8844); cancers in other oral cavity and oropharyngeal sites not previously associated with HPV were classified as comparison (n=28,379).
Results: In 2000-2005, an average of 219, 159 and 110 cancers of the tonsil, base of tongue and other oropharyngeal sites were diagnosed annually, with incidences of 1.09 (95% CI: 1.03, 1.15), 0.79 (95% CI: 0.74, 0.84) and 0.55 (95% CI: 0.50, 0.59) per 100,000, respectively. An average of 1242 comparison cancers were diagnosed annually (6.17 (95% CI: 6.03, 6.31) per 100,000). In 1982-2005, there were significant annual increases in tonsil (1.39% (95% CI: 0.88, 1.92%)) and base of tongue cancers in males (3.02% (95% CI: 2.27, 3.78%)) and base of tongue cancer in females (3.45% (95% CI: 2.21, 4.70%)). There was a significant decrease in comparison cancers in men (-1.69% (95% CI: -1.96, -1.42%)), but not in females.
Conclusion: Potentially HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer in Australia is increasing; the impact of HPV vaccination on these cancers should be monitored.