Key Statistics for Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancers

The American Cancer Society’s most recent estimates for oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers in the United States are for 2023:

  • About 54,540 new cases of oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer
  • About 11,580 deaths from oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer

Oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers occur most often in the following sites:

  • The tongue
  • The tonsils and oropharynx (the part of the throat behind the mouth)
  • The gums, floor of the mouth, and other parts of the mouth

The rest are found in the lips, the minor salivary glands (which often occur in the roof of the mouth), and other sites.

What is the average age of people who get oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer?

The average age of people diagnosed with these cancers is 64, but they can occur in young people. Just over 20% (1 in 5) of cases occur in people younger than 55.

How common is oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer?

These cancers are more than twice as common in men as in women. They are slightly more common in White people than Black people.

Overall, the lifetime risk of developing oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer is about 1 in 60 for men and 1 in 141 for women. These are average risks, but a number of factors (described in Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer Risk Factors) can affect your risk for developing mouth and throat cancer.

Trends for oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer

From 2015 to 2019, incidence rates increased by less than 1% per year in women but were stable in men. However, cancers in the oropharynx linked with human papillomavirus (HPV) infection increased yearly by 1.3% in women and by 2.8% in men during that time period. These HPV-positive cancers tend to act differently than HPV-negative cancers. To learn more, see Risk Factors for Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancers and Causes of Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancers.

The death rate for cancers of the mouth and throat increased by 0.4% per year from 2009 through 2020, after decades of decline. This is mainly because of an increase in oropharyngeal cancer mortality of almost 2% per year during that time.

For statistics related to survival, see Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer Survival Rates.

Visit the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Statistics Center for more key statistics.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

American Cancer Society. Facts & Figures 2023. American Cancer Society. Atlanta, Ga. 2023.

American Joint Committee on Cancer. HPV-Mediated (p16+) Oropharyngeal Cancer. In: AJCC Cancer Staging Manual. 8th ed. New York, NY: Springer; 2017:113.

American Joint Committee on Cancer. Oropharynx (p16-) and Hypopharynx. In: AJCC Cancer Staging Manual. 8th ed. New York, NY: Springer; 2017:123.

National Cancer Institute. SEER Cancer Stat Facts: Oral Cavity and Pharynx Cancer. 2022. Accessed at https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/oralcav.html on January 18, 2023.

Written by

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

References

American Cancer Society. Facts & Figures 2023. American Cancer Society. Atlanta, Ga. 2023.

American Joint Committee on Cancer. HPV-Mediated (p16+) Oropharyngeal Cancer. In: AJCC Cancer Staging Manual. 8th ed. New York, NY: Springer; 2017:113.

American Joint Committee on Cancer. Oropharynx (p16-) and Hypopharynx. In: AJCC Cancer Staging Manual. 8th ed. New York, NY: Springer; 2017:123.

National Cancer Institute. SEER Cancer Stat Facts: Oral Cavity and Pharynx Cancer. 2022. Accessed at https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/oralcav.html on January 18, 2023.

Last Revised: January 18, 2023