Demographic predictors of head and neck cancer survival differ in the elderly

Sean T. Massa, Lauren M. Cass, Sai Challapalli, Zisansha Zahirsha, Matt Simpson, Gregory Ward, Nosayaba Osazuwa-Peters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objectives/Hypothesis: Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) prognosis strongly correlates with demographic factors. This study aimed to determine whether demographic predictors of HNSCC survival differ between age cohorts, with an emphasis on the growing elderly demographic. Study Design: Outcomes research. Methods: Adults with squamous cell carcinoma of the upper aerodigestive tract were identified from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results 18 database. Demographic and oncologic factors were compared between three age groups: 18 to 49, 50 to 74, and >75 years. Factors associated with cancer-specific survival were assessed in each cohort using subdistribution hazard ratio (sHR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) produced by multivariate competing risk models. Results: A cohort of 69,098 patients included 10,588 (15.3%) 75 years or older and 9,882 (14.3%) less than 50 years old. Older patients were more often female (35.4% vs. 25.1% aged 18–49 years and 20.4% aged 50–74 years), white (78.7% vs. 69.4% and 75.9%), insured (63.5% vs. 46.5% and 56.8%), and married (56.6% vs. 53% and 51.1%), but received adequate treatment less often (72.0% vs. 86.3% and 82.7%). In the older cohort, male sex was associated with lower mortality (sHR: 0.92, 95% CI: 0.85-1.00), and unlike the younger cohorts, black race was no longer associated with mortality (sHR: 1.07, 95% CI: 0.94-1.22). Marriage was associated with lower mortality in all age groups but with diminishing effects (single sHR: young 1.52, middle 1.31, older 1.14). Conclusions: Elderly HNSCC patients have distinct effects from demographic prognostic factors and should be considered a separate subgroup with unique epidemiology, risks, and preferences. Level of Evidence: 2c Laryngoscope, 129:146–153, 2018.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146-153
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Head and neck cancer
  • ageism
  • demographics
  • elderly
  • survival

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