Know When to #GetScreened: NPC Risk Factors

We know that screening tests play an important part in the early detection of cancer, but how do we know what we should get screened for? Knowing the risk factors for specific cancers can help us determine this. There are many factors that go into this assessment. Risk factors for nasopharyngeal cancer, or NPC, include ethnic background, family history and gender. Dietary factors are also thought to play a role in the development of this disease.

Certain populations around the globe are known to have much higher rates of the disease than other ethnic groups. For NPC, people from Southeast Asia, particularly Southern China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, have some of the highest risk for the disease. Other groups at increased risk include parts of Africa, the Middle East and the Mediterranean Rim countries, as well as the Inuit in Northern Canada.

NPC is hereditary; if a blood relative or direct family member has had this disease, then it is a good idea to get screened.

This, of course, leads to the question of what makes a certain population more susceptible to NPC than another. Environmental factors are also suspected to play a role in the development of this disease. Large amounts of alcohol, smoke or environmental pollutants are all potential triggers that have been investigated. In addition, one of the key factors is diet – populations that eat large amounts of salted fish are at a greater risk for this cancer. This explains why people who live by the sea, such as North Africa, the Mediterranean and Northern Canada, are most likely to have NPC. Some studies have also shown that a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables could decrease the risk.

Finally, there’s the issue of gender: NPC affects more men than women at a rate of 3:1. Though there has been much speculation as to why this is, it is hard to be sure of the reason behind this difference.

Examining the risk factors helps us to determine which cancers we should get screened for, assists us to better understand the disease, and encourages us to mitigate those factors that may increase our chances of getting sick. If you are at risk for NPC or any other cancer, it’s important to ask your doctor about any available screening tests – earlier detection means better survival!


For more information on NPC please visit: