Oral cancer statistics

Cases

New cases of oral cancer, 2012, UK

Deaths

Deaths from oral cancer, 2012, UK

Prevention

Preventable cases of oral cancer, UK

  • There were around 7,300 new cases of oral cancer in the UK in 2012, that’s around 20 people every day.
  • Oral cancer is the 14th most common cancer in the UK (2012).
  • Oral cancer accounts for 2% of all new cases in the UK (2012).
  • In men, oral cancer is the 10th most common cancer in the UK, with 4,900 cases diagnosed in 2012.
  • In women, oral cancer is the 15th most common cancer in the UK, with around 2,400 cases diagnosed in 2012.    
  • A fifth (20%) of cases of oral cancer are diagnosed in people aged 75 and over. 
  • The 50-74 age group contributes around 7 in 10 male oral cancer cases, and around 6 in 10 female cases. 
  • Since the late-1970s, oral cancer incidence rates have increased by more than four-fifths (83%) in Great Britain.
  • Over the last decade, oral cancer incidence rates have increased by around a third (34%) in the UK.
  • Most oral cancers occur in the tonsils.
  • In Europe, around 61,400 new cases of lip and oral cavity cancer were estimated to have been diagnosed in 2012. The UK incidence rate is 16th lowest in Europe for males and 11th highest for females. 
  • Worldwide, more than 300,000 new cases of lip and oral cavity cancer were estimated to have been diagnosed in 2012, with incidence rates varying across the world.
  • 1 in 75 men and 1 in 150 women will be diagnosed with oral cancer during their lifetime.

Read more in-depth oral cancer incidence statistics

  • Around 2,100 people died of oral cancer in 2012 in the UK, that’s around 6 people every day.
  • Around two-thirds of oral cancer deaths in the UK in 2012 were in men.
  • Almost three-quarters (74%) of oral cancer deaths in the UK in 2012 were in people aged 60 and older.
  • Oral cancer mortality rates have increased by around 10% in the UK in the last decade.
  • In Europe, around 23,600 people were estimated to have died from lip and oral cavity cancer in 2012. The UK mortality rate is 11th lowest in Europe for males and 20th highest for females.
  • Worldwide, more than 145,000 people were estimated to have died from lip and oral cavity cancer in 2012, with mortality rates varying across the world.

Read more in-depth oral cancer mortality statistics

  • 91% (93% in males and 85% in females) of oral cancer cases each year in the UK are linked to major lifestyle and other risk factors.
  • A person’s risk of developing oral cancer depends on many factors, including age, genetics, and exposure to risk factors (including some potentially avoidable lifestyle factors). Risk factors vary by the specific site of oral cancer.
  • Smoking is the main avoidable risk factor for oral cancer, linked to an estimated 65% of oral cancer cases in the UK.
  • An estimated 91% of oral cancers in the UK are linked to lifestyle factors including smoking, alcohol (30%), and infections (13%).
  • Betel quid, smokeless tobacco, ionising radiation and certain occupational exposures cause oral cancer.
  • A diet high in fruit and vegetables may protect against oral cancer – insufficient fruit and vegetables intake is linked to an estimated 56% of oral cancer cases in the UK.
  • Environmental tobacco smoke and solar radiation may relate to higher risk of some oral cancer types, but evidence is unclear.

Read more in-depth oral cancer risk factors

  • Two-week wait' standards are met by all countries, '31-day wait' is met by all but Wales, and ‘62-day wait’ is not met by any country for head and neck cancers.
  • Almost half of oral cancer patients receive major surgical resection as part of their cancer treatment.
  • More than 9 in 10 patients had a ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ patient experience.
  • Almost 9 in 10 patients are given the name of their Clinical Nurse Specialist.

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The latest statistics available for oral cancer in the UK are; incidence 2012, mortality 2012. Reliable survival data for the UK is currently not available.

Unless otherwise stated, the ICD codes Open a glossary item for oral cancer used are ICD-10 C00-C06, C09-C10 and C12-C14 (which include the lip, tongue, mouth, oropharynx, piriform sinus, hypopharynx and other and ill-defined sites of the lip, oral cavity and pharynx).

There is no standard definition of oral cancer and different studies report data using different combinations of ICD codes so caution needs to be used when making comparisons between analyses.

European Age-Standardised Rates were calculated using the 1976 European Standard Population (ESP) unless otherwise stated as calculated with ESP2013. ASRs calculated with ESP2013 are not comparable with ASRs calculated with ESP1976.

Lifetime risk estimates were calculated using incidence, mortality, population and all-cause mortality data for 2012.

Meta-analyses Open a glossary item and systematic reviews Open a glossary item are cited where available, as they provide the best overview of all available research and most take study quality into account. Individual case-control and cohort studies Open a glossary item are reported where such aggregated data are lacking.

Cancer waiting times statistics are for patients who entered the health care system within financial year 2014-15. Oral cancer is part of the group 'Head and Neck cancers' for cancer waiting times data. Codes vary per country but broadly include: lip, tongue, gum, floor of mouth, palate, other and unspecified parts of mouth, parotid gland, salivary glands, tonsil, oropharynx, nasopharynx, piriform sinus, hypopharynx, other ill-defined site of lip, oral cavity and pharynx, nasal cavity and middle ear, accessory sinuses, larynx, thyroid and lymph nodes and other and ill-defined sites of the head, face and neck.

Cancer surgical resection rates data is for patients diagnosed in England between 2006 and 2010.

Patient Experience data is for adult patients in England with a primary diagnosis of cancer, who were in active treatment between September and November 2013 and who completed a survey in 2014.

Citation

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Acknowledgements

We would like to acknowledge the essential work of the cancer registries in the United Kingdom and Ireland Association of Cancer Registries, without which there would be no data.

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