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Researchers conduct large study into oropharyngeal cancers

By Dental Tribune International
September 09, 2019

NEW YORK, U.S.: In the largest study of its kind, researchers from the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DFBWCC) have sifted through the 2013–2014 data from the National Cancer Institute on patients with oropharyngeal cancers to better understand the disease epidemiologically. With a rise in cases over the past two decades, the researchers believe they now have a clearer picture about the extent to which oropharyngeal cancer affects Americans.

According to many health professionals, the human papillomavirus (HPV) has been linked to this rise in oropharyngeal cancers. Co-author of the study Dr. Danielle Margalit said, “Patients with HPV-related oropharynx cancers are now one of the most common patients we see in the DFBWCC head and neck oncology program.” Margalit believes the results of their study demonstrate the importance of the HPV vaccine, as well as the advisability of quitting smoking and practicing safe sex.

Looking at people with HPV status with head and neck cancer within the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database, the researchers were able to extract a representative sample of the U.S. population by age and region. Analyzing patients with known HPV-positive and known HPV-negative status with oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC), as well as people with OPSCC who had unknown HPV status, estimates were made for incidence of HPV-positive OPSCC in a group of 100,000 people using software provided by the SEER database. The team also looked at which demographic groups had the highest incidence of HPV-positive OPSCC.

The results of the study showed that HPV-positive OPSCC was found in every 4.61 cases out of 100,000 people and was most commonly found in white men under the age of 65. The results also showed that 75% of OPSCC cases were caused by HPV, which is 5% higher than was indicated by previous studies. “From a public health perspective, the best way to address the rise in HPV-positive OPSCC is through preventative measures,” said Margalit.

The study, titled “Incidence and demographic burden of HPV-associated oropharyngeal head and neck cancers in the United States,” was published in the September 2019 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

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