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). 

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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

This line chart presents the estimated age-specific incidence (solid line) and mortality (dashed line) rates of head and neck cancer for males (blue), females (purple) and persons (green) in 2017. The age-specific incidence and mortality rates are shown on the primary (left) y-axis, with 5-year age groups from ages 0–4 to 85+ shown on the x-axis.

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

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

This line chart presents the estimated age-standardised incidence (solid line) and mortality (dashed line) rates (per 100,000) of head and neck cancer for males (blue), females (purple) and persons (green) over the period 1982–2013 for incidence and 1968–2014 for mortality. The age standardised incidence and mortality rates, expressed per 100,000 persons, are shown on the primary (left) y-axis. Years from 1968 to 2014 are presented on the x-axis.

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

Survival from head and neck cancer

In 2009–2013, 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 1984–1988 and 2008–2012, 5-year relative survival from head and neck cancer improved from 61% to 69%.

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


 

Source: AIHW analysis of the Australian Cancer Database (Cancer compendium data source table 6).

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).