Public awareness of head and neck cancer (HNC) is low, with few Americans knowing much about risk factors such as tobacco use and human papillomavirus (HPV), according to a study published by JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. The research, which was authored by Alexander L. Luryi, BS, of the Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn., was an online study of 2,126 adults conducted in 2013.
HNC is the tenth most common cancer in the United States. It is a potentially preventable disease with about 75% of cases caused by tobacco use. In recent years, HPV has been established as a risk factor for HNC. Increased public awareness of HNC and its risk factors could help improve outcomes.
About 66% of the participants were "not very" or "not at all" knowledgeable about HNC. Smoking and chewing or spitting tobacco were identified by 54.5% and 32.7% of respondents as risk factors for mouth and throat cancer, respectively. Only 0.8% of respondents identified HPV as a risk factor.
"Awareness of HNC is low compared with other cancers, which is concerning given the importance of risk factor avoidance and modification, as well as early patient detection, as drivers of prevention and improved outcomes," according to the report.
(JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. Published online June 5, 2014. doi:10.1001/.jamaoto.2014.867.)