Abstract – Objective: The purpose of this paper is to describe the extent of the public health problem presented by palatine tonsillar cancer in the United States by analyzing recent incidence and mortality rate trends.
Methods: Using the National Cancer Institutes’ Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program database, age-adjusted incidence rates (1973–2001) for five histological types of palatine tonsillar cancer by race and sex were calculated. For total palatine tonsillar cancer age-specific incidence (1973–2001) and mortality (1969–2001) rates by race and sex were calculated. Mortality and population data were obtained from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and the U.S. Census Bureau. The Joinpoint Regression Model was employed to establish the statistical significance of incidence and mortality rate trends.
Results: The majority of palatine tonsillar cases diagnosed in SEER-9 registries from 1973 to 2001 occurred among white males, age 40–64 years, with squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). The highest incidence of palatine tonsillar cancer occurred in black males, followed by white males with SCC. For age 40–64 years, palatine tonsillar incidence rates significantly declined for white females and black females, rose and then declined for black males, but increased from 1988 for white males. For age 65+ years, incidence significantly declined among white males. Palatine tonsillar cancer mortality rates for age 40–64 years significantly declined for white females. Rates also declined for black females (1981–2001) and black males (1985–2001) in this age group while rates for white males declined significantly from 1969 to 1987, but stabilized at nearly 0.4 through 2001. Mortality for the age group, 65+, significantly rose and fell for white females and declined for white males.
Conclusions: Beginning in the late 1980s, and continuing through 2001, the risk for white males, age 40–64 years, of developing palatine tonsillar cancer increased. In contrast, the risk for white males, age 65 years and older, of developing palatine tonsillar cancer and of dying from this disease decreased during the study period.