Head and Neck Cancers Coverage from Every Angle
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NIH Releases Latest PDQ Cancer Information Summary on Head and Neck Cancers

By: Joseph Fanelli
Posted: Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Intended as a resource to inform and assist patients, families, and caregivers, the Physician Data Query (PDQ) cancer information summary from the National Cancer Institute provides up-do-date information on prevention of oral cavity, pharyngeal, and laryngeal cancers. Based on regular peer reviews and clinical trial updates, the latest edition of this summary was recently released. As such, it reflects an independent review of the literature and does not represent a policy statement of the NCI or the National Institutes of Health.

Among the findings presented in this summary is update on those at risk for these types of head and neck cancer. For instance, patients who use tobacco in any of the popular forms or have a high alcohol intake are at an elevated risk of oral cavity, oropharyngeal, hypopharyngeal, and laryngeal cancer—particularly for people who use both. Additionally, the summary determined that individuals who chew betel quid (whether mixed with or without tobacco) and those with a personal history of cancer of the head and neck region are also at high risk for cancer of the oral cavity and oropharynx. Human papillomavirus (HPV) 16 infection can lead to oropharyngeal cancer, with other HPV subtypes, such as HPV-18, also found in small percentages of oropharyngeal cancer cases.

For nasopharyngeal cancer, risk factors include heavy alcohol intake, family history, Chinese and other Asian ancestry, and Epstein-Barr virus–persistent infection. The summary determined that smoking is not a risk factor for nasopharyngeal cancer.

Other 2019 revisions to the noted that although patients with localized cancers of the oral cavity and oropharynx have an anticipated 5-year survival rate of about 84%, just 29% of these cases are diagnosed. Also, the 5-year survival rate for patients with these cancers combined is 65%, but that rate is much lower in African American and white individuals.

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