BACKGROUND:

Incidence of oral tongue squamous cell carcinoma (OTC) is rising among those under age 50 years. The etiology is unknown.

METHODS:

A total of 395 cases of OTC diagnosed and/or treated at Vanderbilt University Medical Center between 2000 and 2017 were identified. Of those, 113 (28.6%) were early onset (age < 50 years). Logistic regression was used to identify factors associated with early onset OTC. Cox proportional hazards models evaluated survival and recurrence.

RESULTS:

Compared to typical onset patients, patients with early onset OTC were more likely to receive multimodality treatment (surgery and radiation; adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 2.7; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.2-6.3) and report a history of snuff use (aOR, 5.4; 95% CI, 1.8-15.8) and were less likely to report a history of cigarette use (aOR, 0.5; 95% CI, 0.2-0.9). Early onset patients had better overall survival (adjusted hazard ratio, 0.6).

CONCLUSIONS:

This is the largest study to evaluate factors associated with early onset OTC and the first to report an association with snuff.