Proceedings of the 2009 Annual North American Society of Head and Neck Pathology Companion Meeting (Boston, MA)

Head and Neck Pathology

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 78-81

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

The Changing Face of Head and Neck Cancer in the 21st Century: The Impact of HPV on the Epidemiology and Pathology of Oral Cancer

  • William H. WestraAffiliated withDepartment of Pathology and Otolaryngology/Head & Neck Surgery, The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions Email author 


The longstanding notion that head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is a uniform disease process is changing. Divergence in epidemiologic trends among HNSCCs arising in different anatomic subsites has introduced a view that HNSCC is a heterogeneous group. Analysis of molecular genetic changes discloses not just individual tumor differences, but also consistent large-scale differences that permit the recognition of important tumor subtypes. One recently recognized subtype is the human papillomavirus (HPV)-positive oropharyngeal carcinoma. HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer now dominates the head and neck oncology landscape, and its escalating incidence is impacting on diagnostic, preventive and therapeutic practices.


Human papillomavirus Oral cancer Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma In situ hybridization