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J Am Dent Assoc. 2001 Nov;132 Suppl:7S-11S.

Demographics and occurrence of oral and pharyngeal cancers. The outcomes, the trends, the challenge.

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University of California, School of Dentistry, 1750 Wawona St., San Francisco, Calif. 94116, USA.



This article summarizes current trends in the occurrence of, mortality rates associated with and rates of survival of oral and pharyngeal cancer.


The author reviewed relevant data and literature on these aspects of oral and pharyngeal cancer, including data from the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results program collected from 1973 to 1998.


The occurrence of oral and pharyngeal cancer in the United States remains constant, at about 30,000 new cases diagnosed each year. There has been no marked improvement in the five-year survival rates, which remain at about 50 percent, despite advances in surgery and radiation. Detection of early, localized lesions has not improved significantly during the past three decades. There is a minor trend toward a younger age at diagnosis and a slight increase among women.


On the basis of epidemiologic data, it appears that the most important approach to decreasing morbidity and mortality associated with oral cancer is increasing early detection of localized lesions combined with appropriate treatment. Concomitantly, aggressive counseling is vital to prevent use and encourage cessation of tobacco and alcohol use.


Professional and public education about oral and pharyngeal cancer needs to be improved, and clinicians must emphasize the need for and perform routine oral cancer examinations to promote early diagnosis and treatment.

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