Glottic Carcinoma in Young Patients

Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2019 Mar;128(3_suppl):25S-32S. doi: 10.1177/0003489418818852.


Introduction:: Recent reported evidence indicates that vocal cord carcinoma is evolving similarly to oropharyngeal cancer with an increasing number of patients without a smoking history having human papillomavirus (HPV) disease. Observations also suggest that an increasing number of patients who present with glottic carcinoma are younger than has been reported in the past. Therefore, an investigation was done to examine the incidence of glottic carcinoma in patients 30 years old (y/o) or younger.

Methods:: A retrospective review was done with Institutional Review Board approval to evaluate the incidence of patients 30 y/o or younger presenting with glottic carcinoma in 2 symmetric-length time periods over 28 years. These data were comprised from glottic cancer patients evaluated by the senior author (S.M.Z.) at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (July 1990-June 2004) and subsequently at the Massachusetts General Hospital (July 2004-June 2018). HPV testing was done on those patients identified as having a disease process at 30 y/o or younger.

Results:: Between July 1990 and June 2018, 353 patients were diagnosed with glottic carcinoma. From July 1990 to June 2004, there were 112 patients, with none being 30 y/o or younger. From July 2004 to June 2018, 241 patients were diagnosed with glottic carcinoma; 11 patients (7 females, 4 males) were 30 y/o or younger. Of the 11 patients, 3 (1 female, 2 males) were 10 to 19 y/o, 3 (2 females, 1 male) were 20 to 25 y/o, and 5 (4 females, 1 male) were 26 to 30 y/o. Moreover, 10 of the 11 cases were tested and were positive for high-risk HPV. None of the 11 glottic cancer patients had been previously treated for benign recurrent respiratory papillomatosis although it was initially suspected prior to biopsy due to the morphology of the lesions and the patients' young age. Three of 11 had a history of smoking; all 3 had less than 3 pack-years. One of the 11 glottic cancer patients was treated with serial Cidofovir injections that resulted in dramatic acceleration in the growth of the cancer.

Conclusion:: Historically, glottic carcinoma is considered to be a tobacco-induced disease associated with a multidecade process of initiation, promotion, transformation, and progression. However, recent published evidence shows that glottic carcinoma can be an HPV-related disease with increasing incidence in nonsmokers. It isn't surprising that alternate malignant pathways may have a different timeline. In this investigation, an increased incidence of HPV-positive glottic cancer in patients 30 y/o or younger was documented in the past 14 years. This finding further supports the concept that glottic carcinoma is an evolving disease, and it demonstrates the increasing importance of discriminating potential glottic carcinomas in young patients from benign low-risk HPV recurrent respiratory papillomatosis.

Keywords: KTP laser; RRP; glottic cancer; laryngeal; larynx; microlaryngoscopy; papillomatosis; phonomicrosurgery; vocal cord cancer; voice.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Carcinoma / epidemiology*
  • Carcinoma / pathology
  • Carcinoma / virology
  • Child
  • Female
  • Glottis*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Laryngeal Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Laryngeal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Laryngeal Neoplasms / virology
  • Male
  • Papillomaviridae / isolation & purification
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult