Statistics at a Glance
At a Glance
Estimated New Cases in 2021 17,960
% of All New Cancer Cases 0.9%
Estimated Deaths in 2021 2,870
% of All Cancer Deaths 0.5%
|Year||Rate of New Cases — SEER 9||Rate of New Cases — SEER 13||Death Rate — U.S.||5-Year Relative Survival — SEER 9|
|Observed||Modeled Trend||Observed||Modeled Trend||Observed||Modeled Trend||Observed||Modeled Trend|
New cases come from SEER 13. Deaths come from U.S. Mortality.
All Races, Both Sexes. Rates are Age-Adjusted.
Modeled trend lines were calculated from the underlying rates using the Joinpoint Trend Analysis Software.
New cases are also referred to as incident cases in other publications. Rates of new cases are also referred to as incidence rates.
Rate of New Cases and Deaths per 100,000: The rate of new cases of tongue cancer was 3.6 per 100,000 men and women per year. The death rate was 0.7 per 100,000 men and women per year. These rates are age-adjusted and based on 2014–2018 cases and 2015–2019 deaths.
Lifetime Risk of Developing Cancer: Approximately 0.4 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with tongue cancer at some point during their lifetime, based on 2016–2018 data.
How Many People Survive 5 Years Or More after Being Diagnosed with Tongue Cancer?
Relative survival is an estimate of the percentage of patients who would be expected to survive the effects of their cancer. It excludes the risk of dying from other causes. Because survival statistics are based on large groups of people, they cannot be used to predict exactly what will happen to an individual patient. No two patients are entirely alike, and treatment and responses to treatment can vary greatly.
Based on data from SEER 18 2011–2017. Gray figures represent those who have died from tongue cancer. Green figures represent those who have survived 5 years or more.
Survival by Stage
Cancer stage at diagnosis, which refers to extent of a cancer in the body, determines treatment options and has a strong influence on the length of survival. In general, if the cancer is found only in the part of the body where it started it is localized (sometimes referred to as stage 1). If it has spread to a different part of the body, the stage is regional or distant. The earlier tongue cancer is caught, the better chance a person has of surviving five years after being diagnosed. For tongue cancer, 28.9% are diagnosed at the local stage. The 5-year relative survival for localized tongue cancer is 82.9%.
|Stage||Percent of Cases||5-Year Relative Survival|
Confined to Primary Site
Spread to Regional Lymph Nodes
Cancer Has Metastasized
SEER 18 2011–2017, All Races, Both Sexes by SEER Summary Stage 2000
New Cases and Deaths
How Common Is This Cancer?
Compared to other cancers, tongue cancer is relatively rare.
|Rank||Common Types of Cancer||Estimated New
|1.||Breast Cancer (Female)||281,550||43,600|
|3.||Lung and Bronchus Cancer||235,760||131,880|
|5.||Melanoma of the Skin||106,110||7,180|
|8.||Kidney and Renal Pelvis Cancer||76,080||13,780|
Tongue cancer represents 0.9% of all new cancer cases in the U.S.
In 2021, it is estimated that there will be 17,960 new cases of tongue cancer and an estimated 2,870 people will die of this disease.
Who Gets This Cancer?
Tongue cancer is more common in men than women. Tobacco use, heavy alcohol use, and infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), especially HPV 16, are associated with this cancer. The rate of new cases of tongue cancer was 3.6 per 100,000 men and women per year based on 2014–2018 cases, age-adjusted.
|American Indian/Alaska Native||2.7|
|American Indian/Alaska Native||0.9|
SEER 21 2014–2018, Age-Adjusted
|Age Range||Percent of New Cases|
Tongue cancer is most frequently diagnosed among people aged 55–64.
SEER 21 2014–2018, All Races, Both Sexes
Who Dies From This Cancer?
For tongue cancer, death rates increase with age. Men are more likely than women to die of this cancer. The death rate was 0.7 per 100,000 men and women per year based on 2015–2019 deaths, age-adjusted.
|American Indian/Alaska Native||0.7|
|American Indian/Alaska Native||0.3|
U.S. 2015–2019, Age-Adjusted
|Age Range||Percent of Deaths|
The percent of tongue cancer deaths is highest among people aged 65–74.
U.S. 2015–2019, All Races, Both Sexes
Trends in Rates
Changes Over Time
Keeping track of new cases, deaths, and survival over time (trends) can help scientists understand whether progress is being made and where additional research is needed to address challenges, such as improving screening or finding better treatments.
Using statistical models for analysis, age-adjusted rates for new tongue cancer cases have been rising on average 2.2% each year over 2009–2018. Age-adjusted death rates have not changed significantly over 2010–2019. 5-year relative survival trends are shown below.
Interactive Statistics with SEER*Explorer
- Create custom graphs and tables
- Download data and images
- Share links to results
SEER*Explorer is an interactive website that provides easy access to a wide range of SEER cancer statistics. It provides detailed statistics for a cancer site by gender, race, calendar year, age, and for a selected number of cancer sites, by stage and histology.Explore Additional Tongue Cancer Statistics
More About This Cancer
Cancer and the Tongue
Figure: Head and neck anatomy; shows paranasal sinuses, nasal cavity, pharynx (including nasopharynx, oropharynx, and hypopharynx), oral cavity, tongue, salivary glands, and larynx.
Figure: Oral cavity anatomy; shows lip, gingiva (gum), teeth, hard palate, soft palate, uvula, tonsil, retromolar trigone, buccal mucosa (lip and cheek lining), tongue (front two-thirds), and floor of mouth.
The tongue is an organ in the mouth used for tasting, talking, swallowing, and chewing. Tongue cancer occurs when cells in the tongue grow abnormally forming a cancerous (malignant) growth or tumor.
Tongue cancer is a type of head and neck cancer.
Cancer that beings in the front two-thirds of the tongue, or the part you can "stick out", is a type of oral cavity cancer. When the cancer begins in the back of the tongue, it its considered a type of oropharyngeal or throat cancer.
Here are some resources for learning more about tongue cancer.
- More about risk factors for oral cavity cancer
- More about risk factors for oropharyngeal (throat, tonsils, back of tongue) cancer
- More about symptoms and diagnosis of oral cavity cancer
- More about symptoms and diagnosis of oropharyngeal (throat, tonsils, back of tongue) cancer
- More about treatment options for oral cavity cancer
- More about treatment options for oropharyngeal (throat, tonsils, back of tongue) cancer
- More about clinical trials
- More about cancer prevention
- More about the health risks of smoking and ways to quit
All statistics in this report are based on statistics from SEER and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics. Most can be found within SEER*Explorer.
All material in this report is in the public domain and may be reproduced or copied without permission; citation as to source, however, is appreciated.
SEER Cancer Stat Facts: Tongue Cancer. National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD, https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/tongue.html
These stat facts focus on population statistics that are based on the U.S. population. Because these statistics are based on large groups of people, they cannot be used to predict exactly what will happen to an individual patient. To see tailored statistics, browse SEER*Explorer. To see statistics for a specific state, go to the State Cancer Profiles.
The statistics presented in these stat facts are based on the most recent data available, most of which can be found in SEER*Explorer. In some cases, different year spans may be used.
Estimates of new cases and deaths for 2021 are projections made by the American Cancer Society (ACS), based on earlier reported data.
Cancer is a complex topic. There is a wide range of information available. These stat facts do not address causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, follow-up care, or decision making, although links are provided to information in many of these areas.