The changing epidemiology of oral cancer: definitions, trends, and risk factors

Key Points

  • Discusses issues affecting the definition of oral cancer and makes the case that emerging differences in the aetiology of the disease at different sites requires oral cavity cancer and oropharyngeal cancer to be clearly defined, recorded, and reported separately.

  • Highlights that incidence of oropharyngeal cancer is rapidly rising across the UK. Rates of oral cavity cancer are higher in Northern Ireland and higher still (and relatively stable) in Scotland, but rising in England and Wales.

  • Discusses how pooled international case-controlled study data are shedding increasing light not only on the causes of oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers, but on the impact of avoiding risk factors.

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge Professor John Gibson, University of Aberdeen Dental School, who provided clinical advice in relation to defining oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers.

Mitana Purkayastha worked on this paper as part of her PhD studies (which she recently successfully completed) funded by NHS Education for Scotland.

David Conway is a member of the International Head and Neck Cancer Epidemiology (INHANCE) consortium.

Thanks to all involved with data collection in the UK cancer registries and a special thanks to the data providers involved in analysing the information requests from the four countries: Matthew Peet (Cancer Analysis Team, Health Analysis and Life Events, Public Policy Analysis Office for National Statistics – England); Dr Eileen Morgan (N. Ireland Cancer Registry, Centre for Public Health, Queen's University Belfast – N. Ireland Cancer Registry is funded by the Public Health Agency; this work uses data provided by patients and collected by NHS as part of their care and support); Cavan Gallagher (Population Health, Information Services Division, NHS National Services Scotland); Ceri White and Jamie Sullivan (Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit, Public Health Wales).

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Correspondence to D. I. Conway.

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Conway, D., Purkayastha, M. & Chestnutt, I. The changing epidemiology of oral cancer: definitions, trends, and risk factors. Br Dent J 225, 867–873 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.bdj.2018.922

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