Background: Tongue cancer (141 ICD-9) is the most common intra-oral malignancy in Western countries. In recent decades, reported tongue cancer incidence and mortality rates have increased both in Europe and in the United States, whilst survival has not improved. This study aimed to determine the epidemiology and survival trends of tongue cancer in South Australia over the 24-year period from 1977 to 2001.
Methods: Population-based data for tongue cancer were provided by the Central Cancer Registry Unit of the Epidemiology Branch of the South Australian Department of Health. Age-standardized incidence and mortality rates for males and females were calculated. Kaplan-Meier survival analysis was conducted according to time periods, age, sex and tongue sub-sites. Cox regression analysis was used to determine factors that influenced survival.
Results: During this 24-year period, 611 cases of tongue cancer (398 males, 213 females) were reported, the majority of which were squamous cell carcinomas. The most common age of diagnosis was 65–69 years in males and 60–64 years in females. Fifty cases (8.18 per cent of all tongue cancer cases) occurred in patients 40 years or younger. The most common cancer sub-sites reported were ‘unspecified site’ (48.45 per cent), lateral border (25.53 per cent) and base (18.49 per cent) of the tongue. The age-standardized incidence and mortality rates for males and females in South Australia were relatively low and stable, and there was no significant improvement in survival of tongue cancer over this period. Significant predictors for survival were sex, age and tongue sub-sites, with male, advanced age and base of tongue associated with poorer survival.
Conclusions: Tongue cancer is an important health issue associated with poor survival. Early detection and diagnosis is important in order to improve survival rate for this malignancy.