Oral and Oropharyngeal Cancer: Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 01/2020

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 53,260 adults (38,330 men and 14,880 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. 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.

Incidence rates for oral and oropharyngeal cancers in black people have decreased by 1% to 2% each year from 2007 to 2016. However, in the same period, human papillomavirus (HPV)-related oral and oropharyngeal cancers among non-Hispanic white people have increased by around 1% per year. (see Risk Factors and Prevention).

It is estimated that 10,750 deaths (7,760 men and 2,990 women) from these 2 diseases will occur this year. From 2008 to 2017, the death rate declined by approximately 2% among black people and increased by less than 1% per year in white people.

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, whether the cancer is related to HPV, and the extent of the disease.

The overall 5-year survival rate for people with oral or oropharyngeal cancer is 65%. The 5-year survival rate for black people is 48% and for white people, it is 67%. Research shows that survival rates are higher in people who have HPV (see Risk Factors).

If the cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, the overall 5-year survival rate for all people is 84%. 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 66%. If the cancer has spread to a distant part of the body, the overall 5-year survival rate is 39%.

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 2020, and the ACS website (January 2020).

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.