OBJECTIVE: Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the head and neck is rare in patients younger than 45 years. Patients aged 18 to 45 years with SCC of the oral cavity (OC) and oropharynx (OP) were retrospectively compared with older control subjects. METHODS: Twenty of 127 patients with OC/OP SCC were young adults. Thirteen patients (10 men) comprise the present series; 9 had OC lesions. Seven case controls were identified. RESULTS: Overall, 15.75% of patients with OC/OP SCC were 18 to 45 years old. Seven OC lesions were early stage, and 2 were late stage; OP lesions were evenly divided. Eleven of 13 patients were disease free at the time of their last visit; 2 died of disease. Thirty-one percent of young patients were heavy drinkers; 77% of them smoked. CONCLUSIONS: Young adults' survival rate resembles that reported for all patients with head and neck cancer stage for stage. Tobacco and alcohol abuse prevention among young people is imperative. Health care providers who encounter a young patient with a suspicious head or neck lesion must include malignancy in their differential diagnosis.
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