The overall proportion of OPSCC caused by HPV between 2002-2011 was 51.8% (95% CI:49.3, 54.4) and this remained unchanged throughout the decade (unadjusted risk ratio:1.00 (95% CI:0.99, 1.02). However, over the same period, the incidence of OPSCC in the broader UK population underwent a 2-fold increase (age standardised rate (ASR) 2002:2.1 (95% CI:1.9, 2.2); 2011:4.1(95% CI:4.0, 4.3)).
Although the absolute numbers of OPSCC diagnosed within the UK between 2002 and 2011 almost doubled, the proportion of HPV-attributable cases remained static, at approximately 50%. These results provide the first evidence that, in the UK, the rapidly increasing incidence of OPSCC cannot be solely attributable to the influence of HPV.
The reasons for this previously undetected parallel increase in HPV-positive and -negative disease warrants further investigation so that appropriate future prevention strategies for both HPV-positive and -negative disease can be implemented.