Oral and Oropharyngeal Cancer: Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 01/2019

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 53,000 adults (38,140 men and 14,860 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. Cancer of the oral cavity is the eighth most common cancer among men. The average age of diagnosis is 62. About 25% of cases occur in people younger than 55.

Incidence rates for oral and oropharyngeal cancers in black people have decreased by more than 2% each year from 2006 to 2015. However, in the same period, human papillomavirus (HPV)-related oral and oropharyngeal cancers among white people have increased by more than 1% per year (see Risk Factors and Prevention).

It is estimated that 10,860 deaths (7,970 men and 2,890 women) from these 2 diseases will occur this year. The death rate rose 1% per year from 2012 to 2016, after decreasing for several decades prior.

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 white people is 66% and for black people is 48%. 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 is 84%. For white people diagnosed at an early stage, the rate is 83%. For black people diagnosed at an early stage, the survival rate is 79%. 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 65%. 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) publications, Cancer Facts and Figures 2017: Special Section – Rare Cancers in Adults and Cancer Facts and Figures 2019, and the ACS website (January 2019).

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.