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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 2017

4,956 = Male icon PNG 3,625 males + Female icon PNG 1,330 females


headneck-percent-all-new-cases

Estimated % of all new cancer cases diagnosed in 2017

3.7%


Estimated number of deaths from head and neck cancer in 2017

1,026 = Male icon PNG 777 males + Female icon PNG 249 females


headneck-percent-all-deaths

Estimated % of all deaths from cancer in 2017

2.1%


69-in-100

Chance of surviving at least 5 years (2009–2013)

69%


crowd

People living with head and neck cancer at the end of 2012 (diagnosed in the 5 year period 2008 to 2012)

15,352


New cases of head and neck cancer

Head and neck cancer was the 7th most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia in 2013. It is estimated that it will remain the 7th most commonly diagnosed cancer in 2017.

In 2013, there were 4,409 new cases of head and neck cancer diagnosed in Australia (3,174 males and 1,234 females). In 2017, it is estimated that 4,956 new cases of head and neck cancer will be diagnosed in Australia (3,625 males and 1,330 females).

In 2013, the age-standardised incidence rate was 17 cases per 100,000 persons (26 for males and 9.3 for females). In 2017, it is estimated that the age-standardised incidence rate will be 18 cases per 100,000 persons (27 for males and 9.0 for females). The incidence rate of head and neck cancer is expected to generally increase with age (Figure 1).

In 2017, it is estimated that the risk of an individual being diagnosed with head and neck cancer by their 85th birthday will be 1 in 48 (1 in 32 males and 1 in 92 females).

The number of new cases of head and neck cancer diagnosed increased from 2,476 (1,945 males and 531 females) in 1982 to 4,409 in 2013. Over the same period, the age-standardised incidence rate decreased from 19 cases per 100,000 persons (32 for males and 7.9 for females) in 1982 to 17 cases per 100,000 persons in 2013 (Figure 2).

Deaths from head and neck cancer

In 2014, head and neck cancer was the 15th leading cause of cancer death in Australia. It is estimated that it will become the 18th most common cause of death from cancer in 2017.

In 2014, there were 1,040 deaths from head and neck cancer in Australia (766 males and 274 females). In 2017, it is estimated that there will be 1,026 deaths (777 males and 249 females).

In 2014, the age-standardised mortality rate was 3.8 deaths per 100,000 persons (6.1 for males and 1.9 for females). In 2017, it is estimated that the age-standardised mortality rate will be 3.5 deaths per 100,000 persons (5.7 for males and 1.6 for females). The mortality rate of head and neck cancer is expected to generally increase with age (Figure 1).

In 2017, it is estimated that the risk of an individual dying from head and neck cancer by their 85th birthday will be 1 in 214 (1 in 132 males and 1 in 497 females).

The number of deaths from head and neck cancer increased from 517 (374 males and 143 females) in 1968 to 1,040 in 2014. Over the same period, the age-standardised mortality rate decreased from 6.0 deaths per 100,000 persons (9.4 for males and 3.1 for females) in 1968 to 3.8 deaths per 100,000 persons in 2014 (Figure 2).

Figure 1: Estimated age-specific incidence and mortality rates for head and neck cancer, by sex, 2017

headneck-cancer-fig1

Source: AIHW analysis of the Australian Cancer Database and AIHW National Mortality Dataset (see source table 1).

Figure 2: Age-standardised incidence rates for head and neck cancer 1982–2013 and age-standardised mortality rates for head and neck cancer 1968–2014, by sex

headneck-cancer-fig2

Source: AIHW analysis of the Australian Cancer Database and AIHW National Mortality Dataset (see source table 2).

Survival from head and neck cancer

In 2009–2013, individuals diagnosed with head and neck cancer had a 69% chance (68% for males and 72% for females) of surviving for 5 years compared to their counterparts in the general Australian population.

Between 1984–1988 and 2009–2013, 5-year relative survival from head and neck cancer improved from 61% to 69%.

Figure 3: 5-year relative survival from head and neck cancer, by sex, 1984–1988 to 2009–2013

headneck-cancer-fig3

Source: AIHW analysis of the Australian Cancer Database (see source table 3).

Survivorship population for head and neck cancer

The survivorship population is measured using prevalence data. Prevalence refers to the number of people alive who have previously been diagnosed with cancer.

The prevalence for 1, 5 and 31 years given below are the number of people living with cancer at the end of 2012 who had been diagnosed in the preceding 1, 5 and 31 years respectively.

At the end of 2012, there were 3,953 people living who had been diagnosed with head and neck cancer that year, 15,352 people who had been diagnosed with head and neck cancer in the previous 5 years (from 2008 to 2012) and 41,550 people who had been diagnosed with head and neck cancer in the previous 31 years (from 1982 to 2012).


Source tables

Source table 1: Estimated age-specific incidence and mortality rates (per 100,000) for head and neck cancer, by sex, 2017
Age group
(years)
Incidence rate Mortality rate
Males Females Persons Males Females Persons
0–4 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
5–9 0.3 0.2 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
10–14 0.2 0.4 0.3 0.0 0.1 0.1
15–19 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.1 0.0 0.1
20–24 0.8 0.8 0.8 0.1 0.0 0.1
25–29 2.4 1.4 1.9 0.0 0.2 0.1
30–34 4.1 2.5 3.3 0.6 0.0 0.3
35–39 7.5 4.7 6.1 0.5 0.3 0.4
40–44 15.0 6.0 10.5 1.1 0.5 0.8
45–49 28.6 10.0 19.2 3.9 0.9 2.4
50–54 47.2 13.3 30.0 6.2 2.2 4.2
55–59 61.4 17.6 39.2 11.7 2.6 7.1
60–64 76.5 21.7 48.8 14.8 3.4 9.0
65–69 88.1 25.7 56.6 23.3 5.5 14.3
70–74 91.0 38.6 64.3 30.4 9.3 19.7
75–79 94.9 37.9 64.7 29.7 8.7 18.6
80–84 107.5 47.5 73.6 35.6 13.8 23.3
85+ 103.8 45.6 66.3 53.2 23.1 33.9
Source table 2: Age-standardised incidence rates (per 100,000) for head and neck cancer 1982–2013 and age-standardised mortality rates (per 100,000) for head and neck cancer 1968–2014, by sex.
Year Incidence rate Mortality rate
Males Females Persons Males Females Persons
1968 . . . . . . 9.4 3.1 6.0
1969 . . . . . . 10.1 3.0 6.1
1970 . . . . . . 10.1 2.8 6.0
1971 . . . . . . 9.2 2.6 5.5
1972 . . . . . . 10.0 2.7 5.9
1973 . . . . . . 9.4 2.9 5.7
1974 . . . . . . 11.3 2.6 6.4
1975 . . . . . . 10.6 2.6 6.2
1976 . . . . . . 10.3 2.3 5.8
1977 . . . . . . 10.5 2.7 6.1
1978 . . . . . . 10.2 2.8 6.1
1979 . . . . . . 11.1 2.8 6.5
1980 . . . . . . 10.1 2.7 5.9
1981 . . . . . . 11.4 2.6 6.5
1982 32.4 7.9 19.3 10.0 2.8 6.1
1983 32.9 8.1 19.6 10.1 2.4 5.9
1984 32.5 8.1 19.3 11.7 3.0 6.9
1985 32.3 8.3 19.6 11.9 2.6 6.6
1986 31.1 7.9 18.7 10.1 2.8 6.2
1987 32.9 8.9 20.1 10.7 3.0 6.6
1988 32.6 8.4 19.7 10.0 2.6 6.0
1989 33.6 8.8 20.5 10.5 2.7 6.2
1990 32.0 9.2 20.0 10.5 2.6 6.2
1991 32.6 9.4 20.3 10.5 3.0 6.5
1992 35.5 10.1 22.0 10.4 2.4 6.1
1993 33.0 8.9 20.2 9.8 2.8 6.0
1994 31.1 9.5 19.6 9.4 2.7 5.8
1995 31.5 9.9 20.0 9.2 2.4 5.5
1996 31.3 9.8 19.9 9.8 2.7 6.0
1997 31.9 10.2 20.4 8.6 2.2 5.1
1998 31.6 9.9 20.1 8.4 2.1 5.0
1999 28.4 9.5 18.4 8.3 2.4 5.1
2000 28.1 9.4 18.3 8.1 2.4 5.0
2001 27.3 8.7 17.5 8.5 2.2 5.1
2002 27.4 9.1 17.8 8.0 2.1 4.8
2003 27.1 8.6 17.5 7.3 2.3 4.6
2004 25.5 8.6 16.7 7.0 1.9 4.3
2005 25.9 8.6 16.9 7.0 1.9 4.3
2006 27.2 8.4 17.3 6.5 1.6 3.9
2007 26.5 8.5 17.1 6.6 1.9 4.1
2008 25.5 8.7 16.7 6.7 1.9 4.1
2009 26.2 8.5 17.0 6.8 2.0 4.3
2010 27.6 9.4 18.2 6.9 1.9 4.3
2011 25.8 8.8 17.0 6.2 1.8 3.8
2012 25.8 9.2 17.2 6.3 1.7 3.9
2013 25.8 9.3 17.2 6.5 1.8 4.0
2014 . . . . . . 6.1 1.9 3.8
Source table 3: 5-year relative survival from head and neck cancer, by sex, 1984–1988 to 2009–2013

Year
Males Females Persons
1984–1988 61.5 61.3 61.5
1989–1993 63.2 65.7 63.8
1994–1998 65.8 70.3 66.9
1999–2003 66.7 69.2 67.4
2004–2008 66.3 70.9 67.5
2009–2013 68.4 72.3 69.5

Data notes

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

Cancer 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 estimations 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 instance, 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.

Incidence

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

The 2013 national incidence counts include estimates for NSW because the actual data were not available. Note that actual data for the Australian Capital Territory do not include cases identified from death certificates.

The 2017 estimates are based on 2004–2013 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.

The 2017 estimates are based on mortality data up to 2013. Joinpoint analysis was used on the longest time series of age–standardised rates available to determine the starting year of the most recent trend.

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, which is the number of new cancers diagnosed within a given period of time. The longest period for which it is possible to calculate prevalence using the available national data (from 1982 to 2012) is currently 31 years so this is used to provide an estimate of the ‘total’ prevalence of cancer as at the end of 2012, noting that people diagnosed with cancer before 1982 aren’t included.

Age standardised rates

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].