Taking Care of Your Health

Impact of HPV Infection in Oropharyngeal Cancers

July 01, 2020

Head And Neck Light Graphic

Oropharyngeal cancer (OPC) is a type of head and neck cancer. It occurs in the base of tongue, tonsils, and side and back wall of the throat. It is one of the few cancers rising in cases in the United States, and men are five times more likely than women to develop this type of cancer.

About 70-90% of oropharyngeal cancers in the U.S. are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), and this figure is increasing. In the last two decades, the number of oropharyngeal tumors in the United States with HPV-DNA detected has increased from 16% to 73%.   

The FDA recently approved an expanded indication for the HPV vaccine to include the prevention of oropharyngeal cancers and other head and neck cancers caused by HPV, based upon the evidence of the vaccine’s effectiveness in preventing HPV-related anogenital disease. 

Collectively, these provide many reasons for ensuring boys and girls, starting at age 9, and men and women through age 45, receive the HPV vaccine. 

A Phase 3 trial to confirm vaccine efficacy for the prevention of HPV-associated head and neck cancers is opening in the Tampa area. Unvaccinated men ages 20 to 45 who are interested in the study can call 813-745-6996 or email mensresearch@moffitt.org.

2013-2017 U.S. Cancer Rates for Oral Cavity and Pharynx

  • Men
    • 161,038 new cases
    • 34,262 deaths
    • Incidence rate in men: 18.0/100,000
    • Mortality rate: 3.9/100,000
    • Ninth most common cancer incidence among men
    • Florida has the highest incidence rate for men in the U.S.: 21.6/100,000
  • Women
    • 64,611 new cases 
    • 14,042 deaths
    • Incidence rate: 6.5/100,000
    • Mortality rate: 1.3/100,000