PDFs by language
Our 24/7 cancer helpline provides support for people dealing with cancer. We can connect you with trained cancer information specialists who will answer questions about a cancer diagnosis and provide guidance and a compassionate ear.
Chat live online
Select the Live Chat button at the bottom of the page
At our National Cancer Information Center trained Cancer Information Specialists can answer questions 24 hours a day, every day of the year to empower you with accurate, up-to-date information to help you make educated health decisions. We connect patients, caregivers, and family members with valuable services and resources.
Or ask us how you can get involved and support the fight against cancer. Some of the topics we can assist with include:
For medical questions, we encourage you to review our information with your doctor.
There's no sure way to prevent nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC). But there are some things you can do that might lower your risk of getting NPC and other types of cancers.
Both tobacco and alcohol use have clearly been linked to many cancers, as well as other health problems. Since there appear to be some links between tobacco and heavy alcohol use with NPC, especially in the US, it might help to avoid these to lower a person’s risk of NPC. Avoiding them in general can have many health benefits.
Infection with EBV has been linked to NPC. Scientists are trying to make an EBV vaccine, but at this time there's no known way to prevent this infection.
Some research shows that certain high-risk types of HPV may be linked to a small group of NPC cases especially in younger people who don’t smoke. Getting an HPV vaccine and trying to avoid HPV infection might help prevent NPC and some forms of cancer, including cancers of the penis, cervix, vulva, vagina, anus, mouth, and throat.
See HPV (human papillomavirus) to learn more about HPV and vaccines to prevent HPV infection.
Because eating certain types of foods, such as diets high in salt-cured fish, have been linked with NPC risk, eating less or not eating some types of food may lower the risk. This is especially true in parts of the world where NPC is common, such as southern China, northern Africa, and the Arctic region. Descendants of Southeast Asians who immigrated to the United States and eat a typical American diet, for example, have a lower risk of developing NPC. But these dietary factors are not thought to account for all cases of NPC in most other parts of the world.
The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
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.
Cui X, Snapper CM. Epstein Barr Virus: Development of Vaccines and Immune Cell Therapy for EBV-Associated Diseases. Front Immunol. 2021;12:734471. Published 2021 Oct 8. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2021.734471.
Du T, Chen K, Zheng S, Bao M, Huang Y, Wu K. Association Between Alcohol Consumption and Risk of Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma: A Comprehensive Meta-Analysis of Epidemiological Studies. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2019;43(11):2262-2273. doi:10.1111/acer.14184.
Farrell PJ. Epstein-Barr Virus and Cancer. Annu Rev Pathol. 2019;14:29-53. doi:10.1146/annurev-pathmechdis-012418-013023.
Hui EP and Chan A. Epidemiology, etiology, and diagnosis of nasopharyngeal carcinoma. In: Shah S, ed. UpToDate. Waltham, Mass.: UpToDate, 2021. https://www.uptodate.com. Accessed May 3, 2022.
Kaidar-Person O, Gil Z, Billan S. Precision medicine in head and neck cancer. Drug Resist Updat. 2018;40:13-16. doi:10.1016/j.drup.2018.09.001.
Leeman JE, Katabi N, Wong RJ, Lee NY and Romesser PB. Ch. 65 - Cancer of the Head and Neck. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa. Elsevier; 2020.
Lin JH, Wen CP, Jiang CQ, et al. Smoking and nasopharyngeal cancer: individual data meta-analysis of six prospective studies on 334 935 men. Int J Epidemiol. 2021;50(3):975-986. doi:10.1093/ije/dyab060.
Long M, Fu Z, Li P, Nie Z. Cigarette smoking and the risk of nasopharyngeal carcinoma: a meta-analysis of epidemiological studies. BMJ Open. 2017;7(10):e016582. Published 2017 Oct 5. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2017-016582.
Ozoya OO, Sokol L, Dalia S. EBV-Related Malignancies, Outcomes and Novel Prevention Strategies. Infect Disord Drug Targets. 2016;16(1):4-21. 2017-016582.
Rühl J, Leung CS, Münz C. Vaccination against the Epstein-Barr virus. Cell Mol Life Sci. 2020;77(21):4315-4324. doi:10.1007/s00018-020-03538-3.
Smets F, Sokal EM. Prevention and treatment for Epstein-Barr virus infection and related cancers. Recent Results Cancer Res. 2014;193:173-190.
Turati F, Bravi F, Polesel J, et al. Adherence to the Mediterranean diet and nasopharyngeal cancer risk in Italy. Cancer Causes Control. 2017;28(2):89-95.
Last Revised: August 1, 2022
American Cancer Society medical information is copyrighted material. For reprint requests, please see our Content Usage Policy.