• Print

Head and neck cancer in Australia

Head and neck cancer incorporates ICD-10 cancer codes C00–C14 (Malignant neoplasm of lip, oral cavity and pharynx) and C30–32 (Malignant neoplasms of respiratory and intrathoracic organs).


Estimated* number of new cases of head and neck cancer diagnosed in 2016

4,631 = Male icon PNG 3,427 males + Female icon PNG 1,204 females


Head and neck cancer % of all new cancer cases PNG

Estimated % of all new cancer cases diagnosed in 2016

3.5%


Estimated number of deaths from head and neck cancer in 2016

1,016 = Male icon PNG 769 males + Female icon PNG 247 females


Head and neck cancer % of all new cancer cases PNG

Estimated % of all deaths from cancer in 2016

2.2% 


67 in 100 PNG

Chance of surviving at least 5 years (2008–2012)

69%


Lots of people PNG

People living with head and neck cancer at the end of 2010 (diagnosed in the 5 year period 2006 to 2010)

14,412


How common is head and neck cancer in Australia?

In 2012, there were 4,243 new cases of head and neck cancer diagnosed in Australia (3,083 males and 1,160 females).a In 2016, it is estimated that 4,631 new cases of head and neck cancer will be diagnosed in Australia (3,427 males and 1,204 females).b

In 2012, the age-standardised incidence rate was 17 cases per 100,000 persons (26 for males and 8.9 for females).d In 2016, it is estimated that the age-standardised incidence rate will be 17 cases per 100,000 persons (26 for males and 8.4 for females).

Head and neck cancer was the 8th most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia in 2012. It is estimated that it will remain the 8th most commonly diagnosed cancer in 2016.

In 2016, it is estimated that the risk of an individual being diagnosed with head and neck cancer by their 85th birthday will be 1 in 49 (1 in 32 males and 1 in 98 females).

In 2016, the incidence rate of head and neck cancer is expected to generally increase with age, up to age group 75–79; then slightly decrease for older age groups (see figure below).

Figure 1: Estimated age-specific incidence rates for head and neck cancer, 2016

bar graph showing the estimated number of new cases of head and neck cancers diagnosed in 2016, by five year age groups (0-4 to 85+). The age-specific incidence rate for each five year age group is expressed as the estimated number of new cases of head and neck cancers diagnosed per 100,000 persons, which is presented on the y-axis. The estimated incidence rate of head and neck cancers generally increases from age group 0-4 (0.1 cases per 100,000) to 75-79 (70.8 cases per 100,000) before decreasing slightly in those aged 80-84 (67.2 cases per 100,000).

Source: AIHW analysis of the Australian Cancer Database, (see source table 1).

Deaths from head and neck cancer

In 2013, there were 1,080 deaths from head and neck cancer in Australia (804 males and 276 females). In 2016, it is estimated that this will decrease to 1,016 deaths (769 males and 247 females).c

In 2013, the age-standardised mortality rate was 4.1 deaths per 100,000 persons (6.6 for males and 1.9 for females).d In 2016, it is estimated that the age-standardised mortality rate will be 3.6 deaths per 100,000 persons (5.8 for males and 1.6 for females).

In 2013, head and neck cancer accounted for the 16th highest number of deaths from cancer in Australia. It is estimated that it will become the 20th most common cause of death from cancer in 2016.

In 2016, it is estimated that the risk of an individual dying from head and neck cancer by their 85th birthday will be 1 in 210 (1 in 129 for males and 1 in 487 for females).

Incidence

The number of new cases of head and neck cancer diagnosed increased from 2,476 in 1982 to 4,243 in 2012.

Over the same period, the age-standardised incidence rate decreased from 19 cases per 100,000 persons in 1982 to 17 cases per 100,000 persons in 2012.

Mortality

The number of deaths from head and neck cancer increased from 517 in 1968 to 1,080 in 2013.

Over the same period, the age-standardised mortality rate decreased from 6.0 deaths per 100,000 persons in 1968 to 4.1 deaths per 100,000 in 2013.

Figure 2: Age-standardised incidence rates for head and neck cancer 1982–2012 and age-standardised mortality rates for head and neck cancer 1968–2013

line graph with two lines showing actual incidence and mortality rates for head and neck cancers. One line of the graph shows actual incidence rates for head and neck cancers from 1982 to 2012. The other line shows actual mortality rates for head and neck cancers from 1968 to 2013. The age-standardised incidence and mortality rate for each year is expressed as the number of new cases or number of deaths per 100,000 persons and presented on the y-axis. The incidence rate for head and neck cancers decreased from 19.3 cases per 100,000 persons in 1982 to 17.0 cases per 100,000 persons in 2012. The mortality rate for head and neck cancers decreased from 6.0 deaths per 100,000 persons in 1968 to 4.1 deaths per 100,000 persons in 2013.

Note: Incidence rates available for 1982–2012, and mortality rates available for 1968–2013.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare1

Survival from head and neck cancer

In 2008–2012 in Australia, individuals diagnosed with head and neck cancer had a 69% chance of surviving for 5 years compared to their counterparts in the general Australian population.

Between 1983–1987 and 2008–2012, 5-year relative survival from head and neck cancer improved from 62% to 69%.

Figure 3: 5-year relative survival from head and neck cancer, 1983–1987 to 2008–2012

bar chart showing five year relative survival from head and neck cancers in five year periods, starting from 1983-1987 and ending in 2008-2012. The percentage of survival is presented on the y-axis. In 1983-1987, 5 year relative survival was 61.7%. This increased to 68.9% in 2008-2012.

Source: AIHW analysis of the Australian Cancer Database, (see source table 2).

Prevalence of head and neck cancer

The prevalence for 1, 5 and 29 years given below are the number of people living with head and neck cancer at the end of 2010 who had been diagnosed in the preceding 1, 5 and 29 years respectively.

One year prevalence

At the end of 2010, there were 3,932 people living who had been diagnosed with head and neck cancer that year.

Five year prevalence

At the end of 2010, there were 14,412 people living who had been diagnosed with head and neck cancer in the previous 5 years (from 2006 to 2010).

29 year prevalence

At the end of 2010, there were 38,991 people living who had been diagnosed with head and neck cancer in the previous 29 years (from 1982 to 2010).


Source tables

Source table 1: Estimated age-specific incidence rates for head and neck cancer, 2016
Age group (years) Number of new cases
per 100,000 persons
0–4 0.1
5–9 0.1
10–14 0.3
15–19 0.6
20–24 1.0
25–29 1.8
30–34 3.1
35–39 7.0
40–44 10.2
45–49 16.9
50–54 28.8
55–59 41.7
60–64 45.2
65–69 53.6
70–74 60.6
75–79 70.8
80–84 67.2
85+ 67.8
Source table 2: 5-year relative survival from head and neck cancer, 1983–1987 to 2008–2012
Year 5-year relative survival (%)
1983–1987 61.7
1988–1992 63.2
1993–1997 66.4
1998–2002 67.6
2003–2007 67.4
2008–2012 68.9

Data notes

International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems Version 10 (ICD-10)

Cancer, like other health conditions, is classified by the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems Version 10 (ICD-10). This is a statistical classification, published by the World Health Organization, in which each morbid condition is assigned a unique code according to established criteria.

Estimations

Future estimates for incidence and mortality are a mathematical extrapolation of past trends. They assume that the most recent trends will continue into the future, and are intended to illustrate future changes that might reasonably be expected to occur if the stated assumptions continue to apply over the estimated period. Actual future cancer incidence and mortality rates may vary from these estimations for a variety of factors. New screening programs may increase the detection of new cancer cases; new vaccination programs may decrease the risk of developing cancer; and improvements in treatment options may decrease mortality rates.

Due to the rounding of these estimates, male and female incidence and mortality may not sum to person incidence and mortality.

Incidence

Cancer incidence indicates the number of new cancers diagnosed during a specified time period (usually one year).

  1. The 2012 national incidence counts include estimates for NSW and the ACT because the actual data were not available.
  2. The 2016 estimates are based on 2002–11 incidence data. Due to rounding of these estimates, male and female incidence may not sum to person incidence.

Mortality

Cancer mortality refers to the number of deaths occurring during a specified time period (usually one year) for which the underlying cause of death is cancer.

  1. The 2016 estimates are based on 2002–13 mortality data.

Prevalence

Prevalence of cancer refers to the number of people alive with a prior diagnosis of cancer at a given time. It is distinct from incidence (see above). The longest period for which it is possible to calculate prevalence using the available national data (from 1982 to 2010) is currently 29 years. This span is used to estimate the 'total' prevalence of cancer at the end of 2010, noting that people diagnosed with cancer before 1982 are not included.

Age standardised rates

  1. Incidence and mortality rates expressed per 100,000 population are age-standardised to the Australian population as at 30 June 2001.

References

  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2016. Australian Cancer Incidence and Mortality (ACIM) books: head and neck including lip cancer. Canberra: AIHW. [Accessed January 2016].