Open Access Research article

Population-based incidence trends of oropharyngeal and oral cavity cancers by sex among the poorest and underprivileged populations

Ajit Auluck15, Blake Byron Walker2, Greg Hislop5, Scott A Lear134, Nadine Schuurman2 and Miriam Rosin15*

Author Affiliations

1 Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada

2 Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada

3 Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada

4 Division of Cardiology, Providence Health Care, St. Paul’s Hospital, Vancouver, Canada

5 Cancer Control Research Department, BC Cancer Agency, Research Centre, 675 W. 10th Ave, 3rd Floor, Room 119, V5Z1L3 Vancouver, B.C, Canada

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Cancer 2014, 14:316  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-316

Published: 5 May 2014



Oral cancer is an important health issue, with changing incidence in many countries. Oropharyngeal cancer (OPC, in tonsil and oropharygeal areas) is increasing, while oral cavity cancer (OCC, other sites in the mouth) is decreasing. There is the need to identify high risk groups and communities for further study and intervention. The objective of this study was to determine how the incidence of OPC and OCC varied by neighbourhood socioeconomic status (SES) in British Columbia (BC), including the magnitude of any inequalities and temporal trends.


ICDO-3 codes were used to identify OPC and OCC cases in the BC Cancer Registry from 1981–2010. Cases were categorized by postal codes into SES quintiles (q1-q5) using VANDIX, which is a census-based, multivariate weighted index based on neighbourhood average household income, housing tenure, educational attainment, employment and family structure. Age-standardized incidence rates were determined for OPC and OCC by sex and SES quintiles and temporal trends were then examined.


Incidence rates are increasing in both men and women for OPC, and decreasing in men and increasing in women for OCC. This change is not linear or proportionate between different SES quintiles, for there is a sharp and dramatic increase in incidence according to the deprivation status of the neighbourhood. The highest incidence rates in men for both OPC and OCC were observed in the most deprived SES quintile (q5), at 1.7 times and 2.2 times higher, respectively, than men in the least deprived quintile (q1). For OPC, the age-adjusted incidence rates significantly increased in all SES quintiles with the highest increase observed in the most deprived quintile (q5). Likewise, the highest incidence rates for both OPC and OCC in women were observed in the most deprived SES quintile (q5), at 2.1 times and 1.8 times higher, respectively, than women in the least deprived quintile (q1).


We report on SES disparities in oral cancer, emphasizing the need for community-based interventions that address access to medical care and the distribution of educational and health promotion resources among the most SES deprived communities in British Columbia.

HPV infection; Oral cavity cancer; Oropharyngeal cancer; Incidence; Socioeconomic deprivation