Global incidence of oral and oropharynx cancer in patients younger than 45 years versus older patients: A systematic review

Aisha A. Hussein, Marco N. Helder, Jan G. de Visscher, C. René Leemans, Boudewijn J. Braakhuis, Henrica C.W. de Vet, Tymour Forouzanfar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is typically regarded as a disease of elderly people. However, increasing numbers of patients worldwide with HNSCC at younger age (defined as <45 years old) have been reported in recent years. To assess geographical variations and trends worldwide in incidence of oral and oropharyngeal cancer in young patients, a systematic review was conducted in PubMed and Google scholar databases from 1975 to June 2016. Seventy-eight studies were selected for further study. Nineteen population-based studies on incidence rate were available from 13 countries, showing a prominent increase over time except for the Netherlands. A notable rise of oral (mobile) tongue cancer among white women and oropharyngeal cancer in white men was observed. Data suggest that cancer in young patients may be a distinct clinical entity and characterised by different aetiology and pathogenesis. Additionally, the relative proportion of oral and oropharyngeal cancer in young patients to total incidence revealed a significant difference between estimates from North America (5.5%) and both Africa (17.2%) and Middle East (14.5%). It is concluded that (i) a rising trend in oral and oropharynx cancers is observed in young patients worldwide; (ii) incidence studies should properly define outcomes in age cohorts and use a consensus cut-off for young patients; (iii) more population-based studies should be performed in non-Western regions to get accurate global measures of incidence for these cancers in young subpopulations and (iv) there is an urge to identify new aetiological factors in these young patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-127
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017

Cite this