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Nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC) is rare. In most parts of the world (including the United States), there's less than one case for every 100,000 people each year.
This cancer is much more common, however, in certain parts of South Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. In some parts of China there are as many as 25 to 30 cases per 100,000 men and 15 to 20 cases per 100,000 women. It's also more common among native people in the Arctic.
The risk of NPC increases slowly throughout life, but it can occur in people of any age, including children. In areas where the risk of NPC is high (such as China), the peak age of people being diagnosed is typically between 45 and 59. In areas of low risk of NPC (such as the US), cases can often be seen in young adulthood (ages 15 to 24) followed by a decline in cases until another peak at older ages of 65 to 79.
Overall, cases of NPC have been declining steadily over the past decades, including in high-risk areas. It is thought that this drop might be due to environmental and lifestyle changes.
Men are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop NPC than women.
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
Chang ET, Ye W, Zeng YX, Adami HO. The Evolving Epidemiology of Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2021;30(6):1035-1047. doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-20-1702.
Chen YP, Chan ATC, Le QT, Blanchard P, Sun Y, Ma J. Nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Lancet. 2019;394(10192):64-80. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(19)30956-0.
Shah AB, Zulfiqar H, Nagalli S. Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma. [Updated 2022 Jan 7]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Accessed at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554588/ on May 4, 2022.
Last Revised: August 1, 2022