Oral Cavity Cancer Outcomes in Remote, Betel Nut-Endemic Pacific Islands

Ajay M. Narayanan, Andrey F. Finegersh, Mary P. Chang, Ryan K. Orosco, William J. Moss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Oral cavity carcinomas individually are the fifth-leading cause of overall cancer mortality in the Northern Mariana Islands, which is likely a representative statistic for many other betel-nut-endemic Pacific islands. Factors associated with survival have been minimally evaluated in this region. The purpose of this study is to further characterize oral cavity carcinoma outcomes and associated prognostic factors in the United States commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Methods: A single-institution retrospective review was undertaken for 81 patients diagnosed with head and neck cancers at the CNMI’s only regional hospital complex from 2005 to 2019. A subset of patients diagnosed with oral cavity carcinoma was further evaluated for survival outcomes. Cox proportional hazard regressions were performed to evaluate for variables associated with survival. Results: A majority of patients had cancer of the oral cavity (64/81, 79%). Fifty-five of these patients had sufficient data for review. The average age at the time of diagnosis was 48 and over half were diagnosed with stage IV disease (29/55, 53%). Five-year overall survival (OS) was 49.5% (95% CI, 33.3-63.7%). Factors associated with worse OS were lymph node metastases at presentation (P =.031), higher overall stage (III or IV vs I or II, P =.016), and higher T-stage (III or IV vs I or II, P =.027). Those who used betel nut were diagnosed at a significantly younger age than those who did not (47.2 vs 55.4, P =.001). Conclusions: The head and neck cancer burden in the CNMI is dominated by betel nut related oral cavity disease that is characterized by delayed presentations in younger patients and decreased OS. Future studies are indicated to improve health literacy as well as to investigate the potential for screening programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAnnals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • Micronesia
  • Pacific islands
  • oral cavity cancer
  • outcomes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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