Head and neck cancers incidence statistics

Cases

New cases of head and neck cancer each year, 2016-2018 average, UK.

Proportion of all cases

Percentage head and neck cancer is of total cancer cases, 2016-2018, UK

Age

Peak rate of head and neck cancer cases, 2016-2018, UK

 

Trend over time

Change in head and neck cancer incidence rates since the early 1990s, UK

 

Head and neck cancer is the 8th most common cancer in the UK, accounting for 3% of all new cancer cases (2017-2019).[1-4]

In females in the UK, head and neck cancer is the 13th most common cancer (2% of all new female cancer cases). In males in the UK, it is the 5th most common cancer (4% of all new male cancer cases).

31% of head and neck cancer cases in the UK are in females, and 69% are in males.

Head and neck cancer incidence rates (European age-standardised (AS) rate Open a glossary item) for persons are significantly higher than the UK average in Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland and significantly lower than the UK average in England.

For head and neck cancer, like most cancer types, differences between countries largely reflect risk factor prevalence in years past.

Head and Neck Cancer (C00-C14, C30-C32), Average Number of New Cases Per Year, Crude and European Age-Standardised (AS) Incidence Rates per 100,000 Population, UK, 2017-2019

  England Scotland Wales Northern Ireland UK
Female Cases 3,248 389 219 118 3,975
Crude Rate 11.5 13.9 13.8 12.3 11.8
AS Rate 11.7 13.4 12.9 13.2 11.9
AS Rate - 95% LCL 11.4 12.7 11.9 11.9 11.7
AS Rate - 95% UCL 11.9 14.2 13.9 14.6 12.1
Male Cases 7,102 909 520 253 8,784
Crude Rate 25.7 34.3 33.6 27.3 26.8
AS Rate 28.3 35.8 33.7 31.8 29.3
AS Rate - 95% LCL 27.9 34.4 32.0 29.5 28.9
AS Rate - 95% UCL 28.6 37.1 35.4 34.1 29.6
Persons Cases 10,350 1,299 739 371 12,759
Crude Rate 18.5 23.9 23.6 19.7 19.2
AS Rate 19.6 23.9 22.8 22.0 20.2
AS Rate - 95% LCL 19.4 23.1 21.9 20.7 20.0
AS Rate - 95% UCL 19.8 24.6 23.8 23.2 20.4

95% LCL and 95% UCL are the 95% lower and upper confidence limits around the AS Rate Open a glossary item

References

  1. England data were provided by the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service (NCRAS), part of the National Disease Registration Service (NDRS) in NHS England, on request through the Office for Data Release, January 2023. Similar data can be found here: https://www.cancerdata.nhs.uk/ 

  2.  Northern Ireland data were provided by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry (NICR) on request, October 2021. Similar data can be found here:http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/nicr/

  3. Welsh data were published by the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit (WCISU), Health Intelligence Division, Public Health Wales https://phw.nhs.wales/services-and-teams/welsh-cancer-intelligence-and-surveillance-unit-wcisu/cancer-reporting-tool-official-statistics/ June 2022. 

  4. Scotland data were provided by the Scottish Cancer Registry, Public Health Scotland (PHS) on request, May 2021. Similar data can be found here: https://publichealthscotland.scot/publications/show-all-releases?id=20468

About this data

Data is for UK, 2017-2019, ICD-10 C00-C14, C30-C32.

Last reviewed:

Head and neck cancer incidence is strongly related to age, with the highest incidence rates being in older people. In the UK in 2016-2018, on average each year more than a fifth of new cases (22%) were in people aged 75 and over.[1-4]

Age-specific incidence rates rise from around age 35-39, steadily for females and more sharply in males. The highest rates are in in the 85 to 89 age group for females and the 65 to 69 age group for males.

Incidence rates are significantly lower in females than males in a number of (mainly older) age groups. The gap is widest at age 50 to 54, when the age-specific incidence rate is 2.8 times lower in females than males.

Head and neck cancer (C00-C14, C30-C32), Average Number of New Cases per Year and Age-Specific Incidence Rates per 100,000 Population, UK, 2016-2018

For head and neck cancer, like most cancer types, incidence increases with age. This largely reflects cell DNA damage accumulating over time. Damage can result from biological processes or from exposure to risk factors. A drop or plateau in incidence in the oldest age groups often indicates reduced diagnostic activity perhaps due to general ill health.

References

  1. Data were provided by the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service (part of Public Health England), on request through the Office for Data Release, July 2021. Similar data can be found here: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/bulletins/cancerregistrationstatisticsengland/previousReleases
  2. Data were provided by ISD Scotland on request, April 2020. Similar data can be found here: http://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Cancer/Publications.
  3. Data were published by the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit, Health Intelligence Division, Public Health Wales https://phw.nhs.wales/services-and-teams/welsh-cancer-intelligence-and-surveillance-unit-wcisu/cancer-incidence-in-wales-2002-2018/, March 2021.
  4. Data were provided by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry on request, May 2020. Similar data can be found here: http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/nicr/.

About this data

Data is for UK, 2016-2018, ICD-10 C00-C14, C30-C32.

Last reviewed:

Head and neck cancer European age-standardised (AS) Open a glossary item incidence rates for females and males combined increased by 34% in the UK between 1993-1995 and 2016-2018.[1-4] The increase was larger in females than in males.

For females, head and neck cancer AS incidence rates in the UK increased by 45% between 1993-1995 and 2016-2018. For males, head and neck cancer AS incidence rates in the UK increased by 22% between 1993-1995 and 2016-2018.

Over the last decade in the UK (between 2006-2008 and 2016-2018), head and neck cancer AS incidence rates for females and males combined increased by 16%. In females AS incidence rates increased by 21%, and in males rates increased by 12%.

Head and Neck Cancer (C00-C14, C30-C32), European Age-Standardised Incidence Rates, UK, 1993 to 2018

Head and neck cancer incidence rates have increased overall in most broad age groups in females in the UK since the early 1990s, but have remained stable in some.[1-4] Rates in 0-24s have remained stable, in 25-49s have increased by 62%, in 50-59s have increased by 68%, in 60-69s have increased by 58%, in 70-79s have increased by 32% and in 80+s have increased by 14%.

Head and Neck Cancer (C00-C14, C30-C32), European Age-Standardised Incidence Rates per 100,000 Female Population, By Age, UK, 1993-2018

Head and neck cancer incidence rates have increased overall in some broad age groups in males in the UK since the early 1990s, but have decreased or remained stable in others.[1-4] Rates in 0-24s have remained stable, in 25-49s have increased by 33%, in 50-59s have increased by 46%, in 60-69s have increased by 38%, in 70-79s have increased by 7% and in 80+s have decreased by 14%.

Head and Neck Cancer (C00-C14, C30-C32), European Age-Standardised Incidence Rates per 100,000 Male Population, By Age, UK, 1993-2018

For head and neck cancer, like most cancer types, incidence trends largely reflect changing prevalence of risk factors and improvements in diagnosis and data recording. Recent incidence trends are influenced by risk factor prevalence in years past, and trends by age group reflect risk factor exposure in birth cohorts.

References

  1. Data were provided by the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service (part of Public Health England), on request through the Office for Data Release, July 2021. Similar data can be found here: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/bulletins/cancerregistrationstatisticsengland/previousReleases
  2. Data were provided by ISD Scotland on request, April 2020. Similar data can be found here: http://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Cancer/Publications.
  3. Data were published by the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit, Health Intelligence Division, Public Health Wales https://phw.nhs.wales/services-and-teams/welsh-cancer-intelligence-and-surveillance-unit-wcisu/cancer-incidence-in-wales-2002-2018/, March 2021.
  4. Data were provided by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry on request, May 2020. Similar data can be found here: http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/nicr/.

About this data

Data is for UK, 1993-2018, ICD-10 C00-C14, C30-C32.

Last reviewed:

The most common specific location for head and neck cancers in the UK is the tongue (2016-2018).[1-4] Variation of incidence by anatomical site may reflect the physical size of each site, and differences in risk factor exposure by site, among other factors.

Download this data

Cases and percentages may not sum due to rounding

References

  1. Data were provided by the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service (part of Public Health England), on request through the Office for Data Release, July 2021. Similar data can be found here: https://www.ons.gov.uk
  2. Data were provided by ISD Scotland on request, April 2020. Similar data can be found here: http://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Cancer/Publications.
  3. Data were published by the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit, Health Intelligence Division, Public Health Wales, March 2021. https://phw.nhs.wales/services-and-teams/welsh-cancer-intelligence-and-surveillance-unit-wcisu/cancer-incidence-in-wales-2002-2018/.
  4. Data were provided by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry on request, June 2020. Similar data can be found here: http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/nicr/

About this data

Data is for UK, 2016-2018, ICD-10 C00-C14, C30-C32. For some cases the specific location of the cancer is not recorded, this may be due to clinical or data recording factors.

Last reviewed:

The number of new head and neck cancer cases on average each year in the UK is projected to rise from around 14,000 cases in 2023-2025 to around 16,300 cases in 2038-2040.[1]

Head and neck cancer incidence rates are projected to rise by 3% in the UK between 2023-2025 and 2038-2040, to 21 cases per 100,000 people on average each year by 2038-2040.[1] This includes a similar increase for males and females.

For females, head and neck cancer European age standardised (AS) Open a glossary item incidence rates in the UK are projected to rise by 3% between 2023-2025 and 2038-2040, to 12 cases per 100,000 per year by 2038-2040.[1] For males, AS rates are projected to rise by 3% between 2023-2025 and 2038-2040, to 31 cases per 100,000 per year by 2038-2040.[1]

Head and neck cancer (C00-C14, C30-C32), Observed and Projected Age-Standardised Incidence Rates, by Sex, UK, 1993-2040

Download the data table (xlsx)

References

Calculated by the Cancer Intelligence Team at Cancer Research UK, February 2023. Age-period-cohort modelling approach described here, using 2020-based population projections (Office for National Statistics) and observed cancer incidence (1975-2018 for England, Scotland and Wales, 1993-2018 for Northern Ireland).

About this data

Projections are based on incidence data from 1975-2018 (England, Scotland and Wales) and 1993-2018 (Northern Ireland); the above figure presents all UK data from 1993-2018 (observed) and 2019-2040 (projected). Number of new cases and age-standardised rates are presented as annual averages for each 3-year rolling period. ICD-10 codes C00-C14, C30-C32.

Projections are based on observed incidence rates and therefore implicitly include changes in cancer risk factors and diagnosis. Confidence intervals are not calculated for the projected figures. Projections are by their nature uncertain because unexpected events in future could change the trend. It is not sensible to calculate a boundary of uncertainty around these already uncertain point estimates. Changes are described as 'increase' or 'decrease' if there is any difference between the point estimates.

More on projections methodology

Last reviewed:

Head and neck cancer incidence rates (European age-standardised (AS) rates Open a glossary item) in England in females are 64% higher in the most deprived quintile compared with the least, and in males are 101% higher in the most deprived quintile compared with the least (2013-2017).[1]

It is estimated that there are around 2,300 more cases of head and neck cancer each year in England than there would be if every deprivation quintile had the same age-specific crude incidence rates as the least deprived quintile. Around 520 of these cases are in females, and around 1,800 in males.

In the text above, males and females’ excess cases do not sum to persons excess cases due to rounding

Head and Neck Cancer (C00-C14, C30-C32), Estimated Average Number of Excess Cases per Year and European Age-Standardised Incidence Rates per 100,000 Population, by Deprivation Quintile, England, 2013-2017

References

  1. Calculated by the Cancer Intelligence Team at Cancer Research UK, April 2020. Based on method reported in National Cancer Intelligence Network Cancer by Deprivation in England Incidence, 1996-2010 Mortality, 1997-2011 . Using cancer incidence data 2013-2017 (Public Health England) and population data 2013-2017 (Office for National Statistics) by Indices of Multiple Deprivation 2015 income domain quintile, cancer type, sex, and five-year age band.

About this data

Data is for England, 2013-2017, ICD-10 C21.

Last reviewed:

An estimated 62,500 people who had been diagnosed with head and neck cancer between 1991 and 2010 were alive in the UK at the end of 2010.[1]

References

  1. Macmillan Cancer Support and National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service. Cancer Prevalence UK Data Tables. London: NCRAS; 2015.

About this data

Data is for: Great Britain (1991-2010) and Northern Ireland (1993-2010), ICD-10 C00-C14, C30-C32.

Last reviewed:

Cancer stats explained

See information and explanations on terminology used for statistics and reporting of cancer, and the methods used to calculate some of our statistics.

Citation

You are welcome to reuse this Cancer Research UK content for your own work.
Credit us as authors by referencing Cancer Research UK as the primary source. Suggested styles are:

Web content: Cancer Research UK, full URL of the page, Accessed [month] [year].
Publications: Cancer Research UK ([year of publication]), Name of publication, Cancer Research UK.
Graphics (when reused unaltered): Credit: Cancer Research UK.
Graphics (when recreated with differences): Based on a graphic created by Cancer Research UK.

When Cancer Research UK material is used for commercial reasons, we encourage a donation to our life-saving research.
Send a cheque payable to Cancer Research UK to: Cancer Research UK, 2 Redman Place, London, E20 1JQ or

Donate online

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to the many organisations across the UK which collect, analyse, and share the data which we use, and to the patients and public who consent for their data to be used. Find out more about the sources which are essential for our statistics.