Second primary tumors in patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma

Cancer. 1995 Mar 15;75(6):1343-53. doi: 10.1002/1097-0142(19950315)75:6<1343::aid-cncr2820750617>;2-t.


Background: The concept that a patient could develop cancer twice was first put forward by Billroth. Second primary neoplasms are a particular feature of head and neck cancer.

Methods: This study examines the records of 3436 patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck, of whom 274 subsequently developed a second neoplasm.

Results: The actuarial second primary rate was 9.1% at 372 months, and median time to presentation for the second tumor was 36 months. Second tumors were more likely to occur in male patients younger than 60 years at the time of their index tumor, and who had laryngeal and oral cavity index tumors. Patients whose index tumor was small at diagnosis had a greater chance of developing a second tumor as did those with no cervical lymph node metastases to the neck. Radiotherapy to the index tumor was not associated with an increased risk of developing a second tumor. The commonest sites for second tumors were the head and neck (50%) and the lung (34%), and 86% were squamous cell carcinomas. The tumor-specific mortality for those who developed a second primary tumor was 20% after 15 years compared with 44% for patients who did not develop a second primary tumor. The 5-year survival for patients who developed a secondary tumor from the time of its diagnosis was 26%.

Conclusions: Second primary tumors in the head and neck of patients with cancer are not uncommon. If the second tumor occurs in the head and neck region, the prognosis is reasonably good.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actuarial Analysis
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / epidemiology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / therapy
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Neoplasms, Second Primary / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms, Second Primary / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms, Second Primary / therapy
  • Prognosis
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Survival Analysis