April is Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month

Join with the AACR to find better ways to prevent and treat head and neck cancer

Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month

Head and neck cancers usually begin in the squamous cells that line the mucosal surfaces inside the mouth, nose, throat, and salivary glands. They are often referred to as squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck. 

Head and neck cancers account for nearly 4 percent of all cancers in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Counting cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, and larynx, the NCI estimates that about 71,110 cases will occur in the U.S. in 2024. Furthermore, about 16,110 people will die from these diseases, according to the NCI’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program.

Head and neck cancer is more common among men than women. These cancers are also diagnosed more often among people over age 50 than among younger people.

Symptoms of head and neck cancers may include a lump or a sore that doesn’t heal. In addition, symptoms can include sore throat that doesn’t go away, difficulty in swallowing, and a hoarse voice. 

Alcohol and tobacco use are major risk factors for head and neck cancers. Also, infection with cancer-causing types of human papillomavirus (HPV) increases a person’s risk of certain head and neck cancers. 

the latest research in head and neck cancers

  • At the AACR Annual Meeting 2024, researchers presented results from a clinical trial of a newly developed therapeutic cancer vaccine for patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Learn more about the results on the AACR blog Cancer Research Catalyst.
  • In July 2023, the AACR and the American Head and Neck Society hosted a special conference on head and neck cancer in Montreal.  The 2023 conference was the third in a series. The meeting heard about the latest research, including innovations in screening for cancers caused by HPV; use of immunotherapeutics before surgery; and improvements in radiation for solid tumors, among other developments.  Cancer Research Catalyst has a report on the conference: AACR-AHNS Head and Neck Cancer Conference: Highlights from the Cutting Edge  – American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)

What the AACR is Doing in The Area of Head and Neck Cancers

In addition to co-sponsoring the special conference, the AACR awards grants that support research on head and neck cancer.

  • Fatemeh Momen-Heravi, PhD, of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at Columbia University, received a 3-year grant from the AACR and The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research. Specifically, she will study biological mechanisms and risk factors for head and neck cancer in African Americans.
  • Dr. Momen-Heravi’s project aims to characterize the molecular features of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). It will also identify transcriptomic changes associated with HNSCC in patients of African ancestry. 
  • This grant supports the important mission of reducing health disparities in head and neck cancer,” said Dr. Momen-Heravi. “Our research will transform the lives of many minority patients by understanding their specific risk factors and developing new personalized treatment.”

for more information

Please see our page on head and neck cancers. It includes links to information on the specific organ sites that make up the head and neck category.