Recent studies suggested that human papillomavirus (HPV) is an emerging risk factor of head and neck cancer (HNC), particularly for oropharyngeal cancer. Studies from the West showed a rising trend of HPV-related HNC despite a decrease of the overall HNC incidence. In contrast, the overall HNC incidence in Taiwan has continued to rise. It is not clear whether the incidence trends of HPV-related HNC in Taiwan have a similar pattern to those from countries with an overall decreasing incidence of HNC. This study examined the incidence trends of HPV-related and HPV-unrelated HNC in Taiwan using data from the Taiwan Cancer Registry. Our results showed that the incidence trends of HPV-related and HPV-unrelated HNC in Taiwan both rose during 1995-2009. The incidence of HPV-related HNC (1.3 per 100,000 in 1995 to 3.3 in 2009, annual percentage change (APC) = 6.9, p < 0.0001) rose more rapidly than the incidence of HPV-unrelated HNC (10.4 per 100,000 in 1995 to 21.7 in 2009, APC = 5.0, p < 0.0001). The rising trend of HPV-related HNC was particularly prominent for HNC occurring in tonsil (APC = 8.2, p < 0.0001), in men (APC = 7.5, p < 0.0001), and in those aged between 40 and 50 years (APC = 8.5, p < 0.0001). Although the overall incidence of HNC in Taiwan has continued to increase, the most rapid rise is in the HPV-related HNC. This suggests that similar to the Western world, HPV-related HNC is becoming an important public health issue in Taiwan. What's new? Taiwan is home to one of the highest incidence rates of head and neck cancer (HNC) in the world, primarily because of betel quid chewing. In the Western world, by contrast, overall HNC incidence is decreasing, while human papillomavirus (HPV)-related HNC is accounting for a greater proportion of cases. This analysis indicates that HPV-related HNC is on the rise in Taiwan as well. Between 1995 and 2009, the country's incidence rates for HPV-related HNC rose more rapidly than HPV-unrelated HNC. The findings suggest that HPV is a global issue in HNC.
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