By Will Fitzgerald
MD Anderson-led research published in the journal Cancer is shedding light on the risk of second primary malignancies, a leading cause of long-term mortality in patients diagnosed with head and neck cancers.
The study, led by Erich M. Sturgis, M.D. professor in the Department of Head and Neck Surgery, sought to determine the impact of secondary primary cancers in relation to the original cancer site and explore potential factors that may affect this risk.
"As we've improved treatment for head and neck cancers, one area that remains a problem is that our patients, who have typically been exposed to years of tobacco and often alcohol, are now at risk for other cancers related to those exposures," Sturgis said.
Researchers identified 2,230 patients diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck, or more specifically, cancers of the oropharynx (middle part of throat) and non-oropharynx (mouth or voice-box). Statistical models were employed to calculate the 3-year and 5-year rates of secondary primary cancers.
The median follow-up period for all patients who were still alive was 33.1 months (36.1 months for patients with oropharynx disease and 28.4 months for patients with non-oropharynx disease).