Oropharyngeal Cancer Trends in White Men


Key Points

  • Among white men, the increase in incidence of oropharynx cancer decreased from 5.3% to 1.7% increase per 2-year birth cohort for those born during 1939 to 1955 vs 1955 to 1969.
  • The annual number of cases is expected to increase markedly by 2029, reflecting increases among the elderly and among white men.

In a study reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Tota et al found that there has been a reduction in the increase of oropharyngeal cancer among young white men, with a high number of cases projected among older white men in coming years.

As stated by the investigators, “Human papillomavirus–positive oropharynx cancer incidence has increased rapidly in cohorts of U.S. white men born during the 1930s to 1950s. It is unknown how the trajectory of the oropharynx cancer epidemic may be changing in the United States.”

Study Details

The study involved use of U.S. cancer registry information. Incidence trends from 1992 to 2015 were analyzed, and projections were made through 2029.

Incidence Trends

Among white men, the incidence of oropharynx cancer increased rapidly among those born during 1939 to 1955, with a 5.3% increase per 2-year birth cohort. The rate of increase was found to slow markedly to 1.7% per 2-year birth cohort among those born during 1955 to 1969. Projection models showed that if these birth cohort trends continue, between 2016 and 2029, incidence will increase markedly in white men aged 65 to 74 years (from 40.7 to 71.2 per 100,000) and in white men aged 75 to 84 years (from 25.7 to 50.1 per 100,000). The projections indicate a moderate increase in white men 55 to 64 years of age, from 40.3 to 52.0 per 100,000, and stable incidence in those 45 to 54 years of age at approximately 18 per 100,000.

When population growth is taken into account, it is projected that the annual number of cases among the entire U.S. population will increase from 20,124 in 2016 to 30,629 in 2029, reflecting increases in the number of cases among individuals aged ≥ 65 years, from 7,976 to 18,072, and white men, from 14,453 to 22,241.

The investigators concluded, “The exponential increase in oropharynx cancer incidence in young white men [in the U.S.] has ebbed, and modest increases are occurring/anticipated in cohorts born after 1955. Continued strong increases in incidence in cohorts born before 1955, and an approximate 50% increase in size of the U.S. population age 65 years or older through 2029, portend a substantial shift in burden to elderly white men.”

Joseph E. Tota, PhD, of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute, is the corresponding author for the Journal of Clinical Oncology article.

Disclosure: The study was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute. For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.