Epidemiologic distinctions between base of tongue and tonsil oropharyngeal carcinomas

Melina J. Windon, Carole Fakhry, Danielle N. Margalit, Tanujit Dey, Eleni M. Rettig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Human papillomavirus (HPV)-positive tonsil and base of tongue (BOT) cancers have been considered together. However, important differences may exist. Methods: Demographic and tumor characteristics, and survival, were compared by oropharyngeal cancer subsite from 2004 to 2016 in the National Cancer Database (NCDB). Trends in tonsillectomy from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2011–2014 were examined. Results: HPV-positive BOT (N = 13 081) were older than HPV-positive tonsil patients (N = 16 874; mean 61.5 vs. 58.4 years, p < 0.001), and individuals 70+ years were significantly more likely to have BOT tumors compared with individuals <50 (adjusted odd ratio [aOR] = 2.9, 95% confidence interval = 2.6–3.2). BOT patients were also more likely to be white, male, and have advanced tumor classification. Among 7418 NHANES participants, tonsillectomy was associated with older age and white race. Conclusions: There are epidemiologic and tumor-related differences among HPV-positive tonsil and BOT carcinomas. Demographic differences may be attributable to tonsillectomy trends.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3076-3085
Number of pages10
JournalHead and Neck
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Wiley Periodicals LLC.


  • NCDB
  • head and neck cancer
  • human papillomavirus
  • oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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