December 21, 2021
Oropharyngeal cancer has become the most common cancer caused by human papillomavirus over the last decade – occurring more often than cervical cancer.
The rates of men who are diagnosed with the throat cancer and die from it rose in nearly every U.S. state between 2001 and 2017, according to research conducted by the University of Texas. The rates among women only increased in the Midwest and Southeast.
"Rising oropharyngeal cancer among men is a documented public health concern," said researcher Ashish A. Deshmukh. "Unfortunately, women in the Midwest and Southeast are also increasingly suffering from this disease."
That's also where the incidence rates among men jumped the most. And previous research has found states in the Midwest and Southeast to have particularly low HPV vaccination rates.
More than 90% of HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancers could be prevented if more adolescents received the recommended number of HPV vaccine doses, researchers said.
Oropharyngeal cancer affects the middle part of the throat behind the mouth. Symptoms include a lump in the neck and a sore throat.
There are 20,236 cases per year in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seventy percent, or about 14,400 cases, are believed to be caused by HPV.
The number of people diagnosed with large tumors has increased by more than 4% per year, the University of Texas researchers found. And the death rate among men jumped by more than 2% annually between 2006 and 2017.
The researchers identified 260,182 cases of oropharyngeal cancer and 111,291 deaths between 2001 and 2017. White men ages 65 and older, and men living in he Midwest and Southeast were the most likely to be diagnosed with the cancer.
South Dakota had the most troubling surge, with a 6% annual increase. Kansas was next with an increase of 4.7%. The only states that didn't see increases were Alaska and Wyoming.
"The marked increases in incidence among elderly men and advanced-stage tumors, as well as the concurrent increase in mortality in the last decade, are troubling," said Haluk Damgacioglu, a postdoctoral fellow at the university.
For women, the largest jump in incidence rate was observed in Louisiana, at 3.1%.
In Philadelphia and across the country, vaccine hesitancy continues to be a driving factor in HPV vaccination rates. Some parents feel the vaccine is unnecessary because their children are not sexually active; others are concerned about side effects.
The HPV vaccine must be administered as two doses to provide full immunity. The CDC recommends children receive their two doses between ages 9-14.
The study findings were published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.