Background: HPV-related oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC) is associated with a favorable prognosis, yet patients of color and low socioeconomic status (SES) continue to experience inferior outcomes. We aim to understand how the emergence of HPV has impacted race and SES survival disparities in OPSCC. Methods: A retrospective cohort of 18,362 OPSCC cases from 2010 to 2017 was assembled using the SEER (Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results) database. Cox proportional regression and Fine and Gray regression models were used to calculate hazard ratios (HRs) adjusting for race, SES, age, subsite, stage, and treatment. Results: Black patients had lower overall survival than patients of other races in HPV-positive and HPV-negative OPSCC (HR 1.31, 95% CI 1.13–1.53 and HR 1.23, 95% CI 1.09–1.39, respectively). Higher SES was associated with improved survival in all patients. Race had a diminished association with survival among high SES patients. Low SES Black patients had considerably worse survival than low SES patients of other races. Conclusion: Race and SES interact variably across cohorts. High SES was protective of the negative effects of race, although there remains a disparity in outcomes among Black and non-Black patients, even in high SES populations. The persistence of survival disparities suggests that the HPV epidemic has not improved outcomes equally across all demographic groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9976-9987
Number of pages12
JournalCancer medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 2023


  • HPV
  • head and neck cancer
  • health care disparities
  • oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma
  • race
  • socioeconomic status
  • survival


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