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 for 2021 are:

  • About 54,010 new cases of oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer.
  • About 10,850 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 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 most people diagnosed with these cancers is 63, but they can occur in young people. Just over 20% (1 in 5) of cases occur in patients 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 (1.7%) for men and 1 in 140 (0.71%) for women. A number of other factors (described in Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer Risk Factors) can also affect your risk for developing mouth and throat cancer.

Death rate and new cases of oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer

The overall rate of new cases of oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers has risen only slightly over the past 20 years. But during this same time, there has been an increase specifically in oropharyngeal cancers associated with an human papillomavirus (HPV) infection in both men and women. 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 overall death rate for these cancers has been decreasing over the last 30 years.

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 2021. American Cancer Society. Atlanta, Ga. 2021.

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.

Howlader N, Noone AM, Krapcho M, Miller D, Brest A, Yu M, Ruhl J, Tatalovich Z, Mariotto A, Lewis DR, Chen HS, Feuer EJ, Cronin KA (eds). SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2017, National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD, https://seer.cancer.gov/csr/1975_2017/, based on November 2019 SEER data submission, posted to the SEER web site, April 2020.

Leeman JE, Katabi N, Wong RJ, Lee NY, Romesser PB. Ch. 65 - Cancer of the Head and Neck. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa. Elsevier; 2020.

Mendenhall WM, Dziegielewski PT, Pfister DG. Chapter 45- Cancer of the Head and Neck. In: DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2019. 

References

American Cancer Society. Facts & Figures 2021. American Cancer Society. Atlanta, Ga. 2021.

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.

Howlader N, Noone AM, Krapcho M, Miller D, Brest A, Yu M, Ruhl J, Tatalovich Z, Mariotto A, Lewis DR, Chen HS, Feuer EJ, Cronin KA (eds). SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2017, National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD, https://seer.cancer.gov/csr/1975_2017/, based on November 2019 SEER data submission, posted to the SEER web site, April 2020.

Leeman JE, Katabi N, Wong RJ, Lee NY, Romesser PB. Ch. 65 - Cancer of the Head and Neck. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa. Elsevier; 2020.

Mendenhall WM, Dziegielewski PT, Pfister DG. Chapter 45- Cancer of the Head and Neck. In: DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2019. 

Last Revised: March 23, 2021

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