Oral and Oropharyngeal Cancer: Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 03/2022

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 54,000 adults (38,700 men and 15,300 women) in the United States will be diagnosed with oral and oropharyngeal cancer. Worldwide, an estimated 476,125 people were diagnosed with oral and oropharyngeal cancer in 2020.

Rates of these cancers are more than twice as high in men as in women. White people are slightly more likely to be diagnosed with them than Black people. Oral and oropharyngeal cancer are the eighth most common cancer among men. The average age of diagnosis is 63. About 20% of cases occur in people younger than 55.

From 2009 to 2018, oral and oropharyngeal cancers increased by slightly under 1% per year (see Risk Factors and Prevention). Most of this increase occurred in non-Hispanic White people and in a group of oropharynx cancers related to human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.

It is estimated that 11,230 deaths (7,870 men and 3,360 women) from oral and oropharyngeal cancer will occur in the United States this year. After dropping for several decades, the death rate for these 2 diseases increased by slightly under half a percent each year from 2010 to 2019. The rise was caused by more deaths from cancers related to HPV. In 2020, an estimated 225,900 people died from oropharyngeal cancer worldwide.

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.

In the United States, the overall 5-year survival rate for people with oral or oropharyngeal cancer is 67%. The 5-year survival rate for Black people is 51%, and for White people, it is 69%. Research shows that survival rates are higher in people who have HPV-associated cancer, which is more frequently diagnosed in White people (see Risk Factors and Prevention).

If the cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, the overall 5-year survival rate for all people is 85%. About 28% 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 68%. 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%. About 18% of oral and oropharyngeal cancers are diagnosed at this stage.

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. This means the estimate may not reflect the results of advancements in how oral and oropharyngeal cancer are diagnosed or treated from the last 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 2022, the ACS website, the International Agency for Research on Cancer website, and the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program. (All sources accessed February 2022.)

The next section in this guide is Medical Illustrations. It 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.