Nasopharyngeal Cancer | Causes & Risk Factors


Who might get nasopharyngeal cancer?

Nasopharyngeal cancer is rare. It most often affects people who are between 30 and 50 years of age. Men are more likely to have nasopharyngeal cancer than women.

You are most likely to get this cancer if you or your ancestors come from southern China, particularly Canton (now called Guangzhou) or Hong Kong. You are also more likely to get this cancer if you are from a country in Southeast Asia, like Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia or Thailand.

What causes nasopharyngeal cancer?

No one knows for sure what causes nasopharyngeal cancer. Eating salt-preserved foods (like fish, eggs, leafy vegetables and roots) during early childhood may increase the risk of getting this form of cancer. The Epstein-Barr virus may also make a person more likely to get nasopharyngeal cancer. This is the same virus that causes infectious mononucleosis  (also called "mono"). You may also have a higher risk of getting nasopharyngeal cancer if someone else in your family has had it.

Written by editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 04/14
Created: 05/01