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Who at Risk of Nasopharyngeal Cancer?

Nasopharyngeal cancer develops in the nasopharynx, an area in the back of the nose toward the base of skull. Here are list who at risk of this disease.

1. Gender
NPC is found about twice as often in males as it is in females.

2. Race/ethnicity
In the United States, NPC is most common in Chinese Americans, followed by other Asian-American groups, African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, and whites.

3. Diet
People who live in areas of Asia, northern Africa, and the Arctic region where NPC is common typically eat diets very high in salt-cured fish and meat. Indeed, the rate of this cancer is dropping in southeast China as people begin eating a more Westernized diet. In contrast, some studies have suggested that diets high in fruits and vegetables may lower the risk of NPC.

4. Epstein-Barr virus infection
Almost all nasopharyngeal cancer cells contain parts of the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), and most people with nasopharyngeal cancer have evidence of infection by this virus in their blood. Infection with EBV is very common throughout the world, often occurring in childhood. In the United States, where infection with this virus tends to occur in slightly older children, it often causes infectious mononucleosis (“mono”), usually in teens.

But the link between EBV infection and NPC is complex and not yet completely understood. EBV infection alone is not enough to cause NPC, since infection with this virus is very common and this cancer is rare. Other factors, such as a person’s genes, may
affect how the body deals with EBV, which in turn may affect how EBV contributes to the development of NPC.

5. Genetic factors
A person’s genes may affect their risk for NPC. For example, just as people have different blood types, they also have different tissue types. Studies have found that people with certain inherited tissue types have an increased risk of developing NPC. Tissue types affect immune responses, so this may be related to how a person’s body reacts to EBV infection.

6. Family history
Family members of people with NPC are more likely to get this cancer. It is not known if this is because of inherited genes, shared environmental factors (such as the same diet or living quarters), or some combination of these.

7. Smoking and Alcoholic Beverages
Most (but not all) studies have found that smoking may contribute to the development of NPC. More research is needed to define this link. Some studies have linked heavy alcohol intake to this cancer. Some (but not all) studies have also suggested that workplace exposure to formaldehyde or wood dust may increase the risk of NPC.

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