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Oral Oncol. 2009 Sep;45(9):809-14. doi: 10.1016/j.oraloncology.2008.12.009. Epub 2009 Feb 28.

Head and neck cancer in South East England between 1995-1999 and 2000-2004: An estimation of incidence and distribution by site, stage and histological type.

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  • 1Worldwide Epidemiology Department, GlaxoSmithKline, Greenford, Middlesex, UK.


Population-based data on head and neck cancer (HNC) stage and histological type are poorly described for England; these data are essential for clinical management and research. The aim of this study was to describe the distribution and incidence of all HNC and selected anatomical sites by sex, age, stage and histological type using a population-based cancer registry in South East England, and determine if the incidence changed between 1995-1999 and 2000-2004. We identified all HNC cancer cases registered by the Thames Cancer Registry for 1995-1999 and 2000-2004. Frequency distributions and age-standardised incidence rates were calculated by sex, age, stage and histological type and trends in incidence between the two time periods were described using incidence rate ratios and 95% confidence intervals. A total of 8700 HNC cases were reported in 2000-2004, representing an age-standardised incidence rate of 8.59 per 100000, which did not change significantly from 1995-1999. The three commonest HNC sites were intra-oral cavity, larynx and tonsil. Males were two to six times as likely as females to be diagnosed with HNC and there was a trend toward younger age at diagnosis over time. Significant increases in the incidence rate of intra-oral cavity cancer for both sexes and tonsillar cancer among males were observed. Conversely, laryngeal cancer incidence decreased over time. Staging data was only available for about 40% of HNC cases. Seventy six percent of HNC cases were squamous cell carcinomas. Trends in incidence varied between HNC sites, highlighting the importance of presenting data for individual HNC sites. The high proportion of unstaged cancers may result from incomplete recording in medical records; thus, the reporting of staging data should be made a priority.

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