Oral Cancer Deaths Declining

Oral cancer mortality rates affected by educational attainment

(RxWiki News) Oral cancers are on the rise. This is due in large measure to infection with HPV (human papillomavirus). And while prevalence rates are increasing, there's some good news about this cancer.

Recent research shows that deaths from cancers of the mouth (oral) and pharynx (area from behind nose to top of the windpipe) declined from 1993 to 2007, especially among people who have had at least 12 years of education.

"See a doctor if you have difficulty swallowing for more than two weeks."

The study was conducted by Amy Y. Chen, M.D., M.P.H., professor of otolaryngology head and neck surgery at Emory University School of Medicine and the American Cancer Society in Atlanta. Dr. Chen and colleagues analyzed mortality rates among patients diagnosed with oral and pharynx cancers. 

Researchers examined data from the National Center for Health Statistics for men and women, age 25 to 64 years, in 26 states. The team focused on the following factors: level of education, sex, race/ethnicity and association with the human papillomavirus.

Authors report that overall death rates among patients with oral and pharynx cancer have decreased. However, mortality rates among white men have remained steady since 1997.

The largest decreases were among black men and women who had 12 years of education.

Authors said that mortality rates from these cancers decreased substantially among both men and women with more than 12 years of education, regardless of race/ethnicity, with the exception of black women.

Deaths from oral and pharynx cancer increased among white men who had less than 12 years of education.

dailyRx asked Dr. Chen how one is screened for oral cancer. "The best way to be screened for oral cancer is to visit a primary care physician annually for a complete head and neck exam; visit a dentist who is knowlegable in oral cancer for oral hygiene and evaluation, and to seek medical attention for any persistent neck mass, sore throat, ear pain, hoarseness, or difficulty swallowing for more than two weeks," Dr. Chen said.

This report is published in the November, 2011 issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

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Review Date: 
November 21, 2011