Reuters Health (11.23.11) - Tuesday, December 13, 2011
A new study finds that mortality rates for mouth and throat
cancer have been dropping since the early 1990s, but only
among people with at least a high school education.
Researchers examined mouth and throat cancer data from 1993 to
2007 in 26 states. The registries documented 19,300 deaths
among adults ages 25-64. Deaths declined an average 2 percent
to 5 percent every year. However, when the team broke down the
results by educational level, they found the downward trend
held up only among black people with at least a high school
education, and only among whites who had completed some
college. At the end of the period studied, the cancers killed
three per 100,000 white men, six per 100,000 black men, and
one each of every 100,000 white and black women annually.
Among the 4,000 cases of cancer in sites known to be
associated with human papillomavirus (HPV) - such as the
throat, tonsils, and tongue - death rates only dropped
significantly among more-educated black men, the study found.
The rates increased among white men and some white women,
especially the less-educated, reported Dr. Amy Chen, of Emory
University School of Medicine in Atlanta, and colleagues.
The association of education with mortality may be due to
higher rates of smoking, other oral cancer risks, and lack of
timely health care access, the researchers suggested. This is
the latest type of cancer to show a socioeconomic pattern,
"Investment in education is very important not only for the
health status of the population, but also for the economic
status of the population," Chen said.
Chen emphasized the importance of using protection during
sexual contact, including oral sex. Vaccinating boys and girls
against HPV may bring down the rate in years to come, she
Vaccination has not been definitively proven to prevent these
cancers yet, cautioned Dr. Joseph Califano, a John Hopkins
expert in the cancers who was not involved in the study. Many
questions also remain about how oral sex and cancer are
linked, he added.
The full study, "US Mortality Rates for Oral Cavity and
Pharyngeal Cancer by Educational Attainment," was published in
Archives of Otolaryngology--Head & Neck Surgery