Epidemiological Trends of Head and Neck Cancer in the United States: A SEER Population Study

J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2017 Dec;75(12):2562-2572. doi: 10.1016/j.joms.2017.05.008. Epub 2017 May 22.


Purpose: This study represents the most recent epidemiologic trends of head and neck cancer (HNC) in the United States. It provides an important discussion on oropharyngeal cancer and cancers related to the human papillomavirus. The objective was to identify trends in HNC (2002 to 2012) within the United States.

Materials and methods: This study is a retrospective analysis of the US National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) submission. Using the November 2014 submission of the SEER database and SEER-18 data files, data from 2002 to 2012 were analyzed to determine the most recent epidemiologic trends. HNCs of all subtypes were analyzed together. Laryngeal cancers were further analyzed separately. Oropharyngeal cancers of the base of tongue and tonsil were analyzed independently to attempt to trend HPV-related cancers.

Results: From 2002 to 2012, there were 149,301 cases of HNC recorded in the SEER database. The HNC rate decreased by 0.22% per year (P = .0549) and the rate of laryngeal cancer decreased by 1.9% per year (P < .0001). The rate of oropharyngeal (HPV-related) cancer increased by 2.5% per year (P < .0001). HNC rates increased significantly in Kentucky and Connecticut and decreased in California (P < .05). HPV-related cancers increased significantly in all states except Georgia, Hawaii, and Michigan (P < .05). Laryngeal cancer rates decreased in California, Georgia, New Jersey, and New Mexico (P < .05).

Conclusions: The overall incidence of HNC is decreasing in the United States. There is an increasing incidence of HPV-related cancers of the oropharynx. Meaningful differences in cancer incidence and rate of change exist between men and women. Furthermore, younger groups have a greater decrease of overall HNC, with an overall increase in HPV-related cancer in patients older than 50 years.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / virology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Papillomavirus Infections / complications
  • Papillomavirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • SEER Program
  • Sex Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult