Decreased cancer-independent life expectancy in the head and neck cancer population

Sean T. Massa, Lauren M. Cass, Nosayaba Osazuwa-Peters, Kara M. Christopher, Ronald J. Walker, Mark A. Varvares

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Aside from cancer mortality, patients with head and neck cancer have increased mortality risk. Identifying patients with the greatest loss of cancer-independent life expectancy can guide comprehensive survivorship programs. Methods: Age-based survival data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Result (SEER) database for patients with head and neck cancer were censored for mortality from the index cancer. Life expectancy and years of life lost (YLL) referenced to the general population were calculated. Cox proportional regression models produced hazard ratios (HRs). Results: Cancer-independent life expectancy for patients with head and neck cancer is 6.5 years shorter than expected. The greatest hazard and impact of other-cause mortality was associated with black race (HR 1.23; YLL 8.55), stage IV (HR 1.60; YLL 7.92), Medicaid (HR 1.55; YLL 12.9), and previous marriage (HR 1.49; YLL 11.4). Conclusion: Patients with head and neck cancer lives are foreshortened independent of their cancer diagnosis necessitating management of noncancer mortality to maximize overall survival.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1845-1853
Number of pages9
JournalHead and Neck
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • competing mortality
  • head and neck cancer
  • life expectancy
  • survivorship
  • years of life lost

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