Oral and Oropharyngeal Cancer: Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 02/2021

ON THIS PAGE: You will find information about the number of people who are diagnosed with oral and oropharyngeal cancer each year. You will also read general information on surviving these diseases. Remember, survival rates depend on several factors. Use the menu to see other pages.

This year, an estimated 54,010 adults (38,800 men and 15,210 women) in the United States will be diagnosed with oral and oropharyngeal cancer.

Rates of these cancers are more than twice as high in men as in women. White people and Black people are equally likely to be diagnosed with them. Oral and oropharyngeal cancer are the eighth most common cancer among men. The average age of diagnosis is 62. About 25% of cases occur in people younger than 55, but these cancers are rare in children.

From 2008 to 2017, oral and oropharyngeal cancers increased by around 1% per year (see Risk Factors and Prevention) after dropping for several years. Most of this increase occurred in non-Hispanic white people and in a group of oropharynx cancers related to HPV infection.

It is estimated that 10,850 deaths (7,620 men and 3,230 women) from oral and oropharyngeal cancer will occur this year. After dropping for several decades, the death rate for these 2 diseases increased by half a percent each year from 2009 to 2018.

The 5-year survival rate tells you what percent of people live at least 5 years after the cancer is found. Percent means how many out of 100. Survival rates for oral and oropharyngeal cancer vary widely depending on the original location and the extent of the disease.

The overall 5-year survival rate for people with oral or oropharyngeal cancer is 66%. The 5-year survival rate for Black people is 50%, and for white people, it is 68%. Research shows that survival rates are higher in people who have HPV-associated cancer (see Risk Factors).

If the cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, the overall 5-year survival rate for all people is 85%. About 29% of oral and oropharyngeal cancers are diagnosed at this stage. If the cancer has spread to surrounding tissues or organs and/or the regional lymph nodes, the overall 5-year survival rate is 67%. Almost half of cases are diagnosed at this stage. If the cancer has spread to a distant part of the body, the overall 5-year survival rate is 40%.

It is important to remember that statistics on the survival rates for people with oral and oropharyngeal cancer are an estimate. The estimate comes from annual data based on the number of people with these cancers in the United States. Also, experts measure the survival statistics every 5 years. So the estimate may not show the results of better diagnosis or treatment available for less than 5 years. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions about this information. Learn more about understanding statistics.

Statistics adapted from the American Cancer Society's (ACS) publication, Cancer Facts & Figures 2021, the ACS website, and the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program (sources accessed February 2021).

The next section in this guide is Medical IllustrationsIt offers drawings of body parts often affected by oral and oropharyngeal cancer. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.