Nasopharyngeal cancer

Graphic of nasopharyngeal cancer statisticsHow diet, nutrition and physical activity affect nasopharyngeal cancer risk. In total, we analysed 10 case-control studies from Asian countries, covering over 5,700 cases of nasopharyngeal cancer and 5,900 control subjects.

The nasopharynx is the top of the pharynx (throat), the muscular cavity leading from the nose and mouth to the larynx (voice box). Nasopharyngeal cancer is a type of head and neck cancer but is reviewed separately from other types of head and neck cancer.

> Find the latest nasopharyngeal cancer statistics

What causes nasopharyngeal cancer?

Our Expert Panel has reviewed the evidence on diet, weight, physical activity and the risk of nasopharyngeal cancer.

There is strong evidence that:

There is some evidence that:

> Download our 2018 nasopharyngeal cancer systematic literature review

> Browse all our resources and toolkits

Other causes of nasopharyngeal cancer

In addition to the findings on diet, nutrition and physical activity outlined above, other established causes of nasopharyngeal cancer include:


Smoking tobacco is a cause of nasopharyngeal cancer. It is estimated that 23% of cases of nasopharyngeal cancers are attributable to smoking tobacco.

Occupational exposure

Occupational exposure to wood dust and formaldehyde is also a cause of this cancer.

Infectious agents

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection is a cause of nasopharyngeal cancer. Although it’s a necessary cause, it is not sufficient as only a fraction of the infected population develops nasopharyngeal cancer.

Emerging research on nasopharyngeal cancer

We fund research on nasopharyngeal cancer through our grant programme. Read about the latest findings and ongoing projects in our database of projects.

Diet and Cancer Report 2018

In 2018, World Cancer Research Fund International published Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: a Global Perspective on behalf of AICR, WCRF and WKOF. This was the third in our series of major reports looking at the many ways in which our diets, and how active we are, affect our cancer risk. You can find out much more about bladder cancer by downloading a pdf of the relevant chapter in the 2018 report. Please note, however, that this webpage may have been updated since the report was published.