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Hypopharyngeal Cancer Risks and Prevention

Nasopharyngeal cancer is rare, affecting about 1 in every 100,000 people across the U.S. Individuals with certain risk factors for nasopharyngeal cancer may have a greater chance of developing the disease. These risk factors include:

Genetic factors and family history

Nasopharyngeal cancers are more commonly found to exist in southern parts of Asia and China, as well as parts of North Africa. Those with family members who have nasopharyngeal cancer are more likely to develop the disease. Researchers believe that the development of nasopharyngeal cancer may have to do with a combination of environmental factors and genetic and biological pre-existing conditions.

Eating salt-cured fish and meats

Studies show that people who eat a diet high in salt-cured fish and meat (such as people in parts of Asia and Africa where the disease is more common) have a greater chance of developing nasopharyngeal cancer. Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables helps to lower this risk.

Tobacco use

Cigarettes contain toxic chemicals that increase the risk of individuals developing nasopharyngeal cancer. Individuals are at a much higher risk of developing the disease if they regularly smoke. Avoiding the use of tobacco will lower your risk of developing nasopharyngeal cancer.

Drinking alcohol

Heavy alcohol use (especially if used in combination with tobacco) is linked to the development of nasopharyngeal cancer. It is best to avoid heavy alcohol consumption (and quit smoking) to reduce your risk of developing the disease.

Avoiding wood or dust containing chemicals like formaldehyde

Certain occupations may put individuals at a higher risk for developing nasopharyngeal cancer. Exposure to certain toxins and chemicals such as wood, dust or formaldehyde in the workplace (such as textile industries) has been linked to the development of nasopharyngeal cancer.

Exposure to Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)

Studies show that those who have been exposed to the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) have an increased risk of developing nasopharyngeal cancer. EBV is also linked to other cancers (such as lymphoma) and infectious mononucleosis.


Men tend to develop nasopharyngeal cancer more often than women.