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Oral Health Topics

Cancer (Head and Neck)

Key Points

  • Although they border each other, the oral cavity (OC) and oropharynx (OP) are separate, nonoverlapping anatomic regions.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the most common malignancy in the OC and OP, accounting for 90% of cancers of the head and neck.
  • OC and OP cancers account for 2.9% of all cancers diagnosed in the U.S. and 1.6% of all cancer deaths.
  • The 5-year relative survival rate for those with localized disease at diagnosis is 83%, compared with only 36% in patients whose cancer has metastasized.
  • The major risk factors for OC-SCC and OP-SCC are tobacco use, alcohol consumption, interaction between heavy use of tobacco and alcohol together, and chewing betel quid (“paan,” often practiced in Asian, migrant Asian, and other communities). Infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) is a major risk factor for oropharyngeal cancer, rather than oral cancer.
  • The National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) provides an oral cancer examination protocol for dental practitioners.
  • Introduction
  • Incidence and Mortality
  • Risk Factors
  • Focus on HPV
  • Signs and Symptoms
  • Disease Detection
  • ADA Policy on Early Detection and Prevention of Oral Cancer
  • ADA Policy on HPV Vaccination
  • References
  • ADA Resources
  • Other Resources
Reviewed by: Clinical Excellence Subcommittee, ADA Council on Scientific Affairs
Topic Last Updated: September 2, 2020

Prepared by:

Department of Scientific Information, Evidence Synthesis & Translation Research, ADA Science & Research Institute, LLC.


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