Chapter 1 - Epidemiology, Risk factors and Pathogenesis of Squamous Cell Tumours

Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) encompasses a variety of tumours originating in the lip, oral cavity, hypopharynx, oropharynx, nasopharynx or larynx.

It is the sixth most common malignancy worldwide, accounting for approximately 6% of all cancer cases, responsible for an estimated 1%–2% of all cancer deaths.

Oral cavity and laryngeal cancers are the most common head and neck cancers globally (age-adjusted standardised incidence rate 3.9 and 2.3 per 100 000, respectively).

HNSCC is predicted to account for 742 270 new cases and 407 037 deaths worldwide, for the year 2015. It is the most common cancer in Central Asia.

In the United States, more than 54 000 new cases were diagnosed in 2014, resulting in an annual incidence of 15 per 100 000, with 12 000 deaths attributed to the disease.

In Europe, HNSCC incidence and mortality rates are higher, with approximately 140 000 new cases diagnosed in 2014, corresponding to an annual incidence of 43/100 000.

HNSCC incidence trends have been strongly influenced by patterns of tobacco use over time and across countries.

In the USA, overall incidence of oral cavity and pharyngeal cancers began decreasing 30 years ago and stabilised in 2003. Overall incidence of laryngeal cancer began declining in the 1990s.

In Eastern Europe and China (high tobacco consumption rates), a rise in HNSCC is anticipated. Infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) is responsible for a growing ratio of oropharyngeal tumours.

Revision Questions

  1. Which is the most common head and neck cancer globally?
  2. What is the trend of HNSCC incidence in the USA and Europe in the last 20 years?
  3. What is the percentage of deaths due to head and neck cancer among all cancer-related deaths?
Last update: 26 July 2017