The growing epidemic of HPV-positive oropharyngeal carcinoma: A clinical review for primary care providers

Kevin A. Moore, Vikas Mehta

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


While the rate of head and neck cancer has decreased in recent decades, the prevalence of oropharynx cancer has dramatically increased due to human papillomavirus (HPV)-related oropharyngeal cancer. Three of 4 newly diagnosed oropharyngeal carcinomas are HPV-positive, and by 2020 it is projected that the prevalence of this disease will overtake that of HPV-related cervical cancer. Recognized in recent years as a malignant entity distinct from HPV-negative oropharyngeal carcinoma, HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer is associated with younger age at diagnosis, oral sexual behavior as a primary risk factor, nonspecific presentation, and improved treatment response compared with HPV-negative disease. Early recognition and referral for definitive treatment are paramount in decreasing morbidity and mortality, as well as improving the quality of life of these patients. Primary care providers are in an ideal position to improve patient outcomes through early recognition and referral, as well as coordination of comprehensive care of patients with this potentially devastating disease. Awareness of risk factors, a high index of suspicion, counseling patients and parents on the importance of vaccination against HPV, and coordinated care between primary care providers and specialists are vital to achieving improved outcomes for patients with this increasingly prevalent cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)498-503
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Board of Family Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer
  • Epidemiology
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Human papillomavirus
  • Oropharyngeal cancer
  • Otolaryngology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Family Practice


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