• squamous carcinoma;
  • head and neck;
  • young adult

We present a series of 2305 previously untreated histologically proven squamous carcinomas of the mucosal surfaces of the upper aerodigestive tract managed by one of us in a 27-year period. 62 (2.7%) of the patients were aged 40 years or younger.

The sex ratio between young and old patients was similar but, as expected, the younger patients were in better physical condition. Furthermore, 90% of young patients were treated, compared with only 78% of the older patients.

Younger patients had a higher incidence of oropharyngeal tumours and lymph node metastases, but the proportion of poorly differentiated tumours, and stage T3-T4 tumours, was similar, as was the metastatic rate.

The crude survival of the younger patients was 10% better than that of the older group, and adjusted (life-table) survival was 9% better, and this better survival in younger patients was significant when differing site incidence and N-stage were allowed for by multivariate analysis.

The recurrence rate at the primary site was 19% in the younger patients and 15% in older patients, but this difference was not significant. The recurrence rate in cervical lymph nodes was similar in both age groups: 37% at 2 years in young patients and 38% in older patients.