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23-11-2011 | General practice | Article

Oropharyngeal cancer mortality declines in USA

Abstract

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MedWire News: Mortality from cancer of the mouth and pharynx has declined significantly in the USA in the last two decades, study findings show.

The decline occurred in both White and Black people and was most pronounced among better-educated individuals, potentially reflecting the changing prevalence of risk factors, say the authors.

Amy Chen (American Cancer Society, Atlanta, Georgia, USA) and team examined age-standardized mortality rates for patients with oral cavity and pharynx cancer in 26 US states between 1993 and 2007 using data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

Their analysis was restricted to people aged between 25-64 years of non-Hispanic, Black, or non-Hispanic White ethnicity.

Writing in the Archives of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Chen et al report that overall mortality rates for cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx fell in both Black and White individuals between 1993 and 2007.

The researchers then analyzed mortality rates according to race and gender, finding that rates in White men have been relatively stable since 1999.

They then classified people into three groups according to educational attainment: less than 12 years (did not graduate from high school), 12 years (high school graduate), or more than 12 years (some college).

In each of the gender and racial subgroups, absolute mortality from oral cavity and pharynx cancers was inversely associated with educational attainment, being highest in those with the lowest educational levels and vice versa.

Among those with the highest level of education, mortality rates fell in each of the gender/racial subgroups. However, mortality rates actually rose over the study period among White men and women with intermediate and the lowest levels of education.

A final analysis found that mortality trends also varied according to whether or not the cancer was associated with human papillomavirus infection.

"To our knowledge, this is the first large US study to examine mortality rates of patients with oral cavity and pharynx cancers by educational attainment," write Chen et al.

They conclude: "This difference in mortality trends may reflect the changing prevalence of smoking and sexual behaviors among populations of different educational attainment."

By Joanna Lyford

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