Due to the progressive decline in smoking and drinking, incidences of head and
neck cancers have decreased markedly in the USA and European countries. However, incidences
of oropharyngeal cancer (OPC) are rising worldwide in both nonsmokers and nondrinkers.
Epidemiologic studies suggest a strong association between human papillomavirus
(HPV) 16 infection, changing sexual behavior and cancer development.
While HPV-associated oropharyngeal carcinoma is characterized by locally advanced disease and poorly differentiated
histology, HPV-associated OPC is identified with effective prognosis by reason of its positive response
to chemotherapy and radiation. Nevertheless, clinicians need to be aware of the risk of OPC in young
people in order to avoid unnecessary delays in diagnosis and treatment.
Interviews with attention to obtaining information including the patient’s history of oral sex can aid in establishing
a precise diagnoses in young patients with enlarged neck nodes and/or tonsillar masses.