Patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) are at elevated risk of second primary malignancies (SPM), most commonly of the head and neck (HN), lung, and esophagus. Our objectives were to identify HNSCC subsite-specific differences in SPM risk and distribution and to describe trends in risk over 3 decades, before and during the era of human papillomavirus (HPV) –associated oropharyngeal SCC.
Population-based cohort study of 75,087 patients with HNSCC in the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program. SPM risk was quantified by using standardized incidence ratios (SIRs), excess absolute risk (EAR) per 10,000 person-years at risk (PYR), and number needed to observe. Trends in SPM risk were analyzed by using joinpoint log-linear regression.
In patients with HNSCC, the SIR of second primary solid tumor was 2.2 (95% CI, 2.1 to 2.2), and the EAR was 167.7 cancers per 10,000 PYR. The risk of SPM was highest for hypopharyngeal SCC (SIR, 3.5; EAR, 307.1 per 10,000 PYR) and lowest for laryngeal SCC (SIR, 1.9; EAR, 147.8 per 10,000 PYR). The most common SPM site for patients with oral cavity and oropharynx SCC was HN; for patients with laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancer, it was the lung. Since 1991, SPM risk has decreased significantly among patients with oropharyngeal SCC (annual percentage change in EAR, −4.6%; P = .03).
In patients with HNSCC, the risk and distribution of SPM differ significantly according to subsite of the index cancer. Before the 1990s, hypopharynx and oropharynx cancers carried the highest excess risk of SPM. Since then, during the HPV era, SPM risk associated with oropharyngeal SCC has declined to the lowest risk level of any subsite.