Purpose: Human papillomavirus (HPV) has been identified as the cause of the increasing oropharyngeal cancer (OPC) incidence in some countries. To investigate whether this represents a global phenomenon, we evaluated incidence trends for OPCs and oral cavity cancers (OCCs) in 23 countries across four continents.
Methods: We used data from the Cancer Incidence in Five Continents database Volumes VI to IX (years 1983 to 2002). Using age-period-cohort modeling, incidence trends for OPCs were compared with those of OCCs and lung cancers to delineate the potential role of HPV vis-à-vis smoking on incidence trends. Analyses were country specific and sex specific.
Results: OPC incidence significantly increased during 1983 to 2002 predominantly in economically developed countries. Among men, OPC incidence significantly increased in the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, and Slovakia, despite nonsignificant or significantly decreasing incidence of OCCs. In contrast, among women, in all countries with increasing OPC incidence (Denmark, Estonia, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Switzerland, and United Kingdom), there was a concomitant increase in incidence of OCCs. Although increasing OPC incidence among men was accompanied by decreasing lung cancer incidence, increasing incidence among women was generally accompanied by increasing lung cancer incidence. The magnitude of increase in OPC incidence among men was significantly higher at younger ages (< 60 years) than older ages in the United States, Australia, Canada, Slovakia, Denmark, and United Kingdom.
Conclusion: OPC incidence significantly increased during 1983 to 2002 predominantly in developed countries and at younger ages. These results underscore a potential role for HPV infection on increasing OPC incidence, particularly among men.