Clinical features and outcomes in young adults with oral tongue cancer

Am J Otolaryngol. 2019 Jan-Feb;40(1):93-96. doi: 10.1016/j.amjoto.2018.09.022. Epub 2018 Oct 2.


Objective: To evaluate outcomes and survival in young patients with oral tongue cancer (OTC).

Methods: Retrospective chart review of patients aged 18-40 with OTC treated between 2000 and 2016. Tumor characteristics of p16 expression, perineural invasion (PNI), and lymph-vascular invasion (LVI) were evaluated. Recurrence-free (RFS) and overall survival (OS) data were analyzed according to Kaplan-Meier method with univariate analysis.

Results: A total of 23 patients were identified: 12 with early stage disease (ESD, stage I), and 11 with advanced stage disease (ASD, stage III or IV), (17 men and 6 women). Mean age at presentation was 34.5 years (±5 months) and mean follow-up was 46.6 months. For all patients, 5-year RFS was 62% and OS 66%. RFS for ESD was 73% and ASD 25% (log rank p = 0.011). OS for ESD was 100% and ASD 55% (log rank p = 0.012). 22% indicated tobacco use >5 pack-years and 9% heavy alcohol use. Factors associated with worse OS were neck disease (log rank p = 0.073), positive margins (log rank p = 0.001), and LVI (log rank p = 0.002). Factors associated with worse RFS were chemotherapy or radiation therapy prior to surgery (log rank p = 0.002), neck disease (log rank p = 0.047), positive margins (log rank p = 0.039), and PNI (log rank p = 0.001). Expression of p16 was observed in five cases and was not significantly associated with OS or RFS.

Conclusion: In young patients with OTC, factors associated with worse outcomes are similar to known predictors in older patients. Expression of p16 was not statistically associated with improved OS. OS in patients with ESD was excellent (100%), and significantly worse for ASD.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p16 / metabolism
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Rate
  • Tongue Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Tongue Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Tongue Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p16