Nasopharyngeal Cancer

Updated: Nov 17, 2016
  • Author: Arnold C Paulino, MD; Chief Editor: Cameron K Tebbi, MD  more...
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Overview

Background

Nasopharyngeal carcinoma is a rare tumor arising from the epithelium of the nasopharynx. It accounts for approximately 1% of all childhood malignancies. Whereas almost all adult nasopharyngeal cancers are carcinomas, only 35-50% of nasopharyngeal malignancies are carcinomas in children. In the pediatric population, additional nasopharyngeal malignancies include rhabdomyosarcomas or lymphomas.

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Pathophysiology

The detection of the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) nuclear antigen and viral DNA in nasopharyngeal carcinoma has revealed that EBV can infect epithelial cells and is associated with their malignant transformation. [1] Copies of the EBV genome have been found in cells of preinvasive lesions, suggesting that it is directly related to the process of transformation.

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Epidemiology

Frequency

United States

Although the incidence varies according to geographic location, approximately 1 in every 100,000 children are diagnosed annually in North America.

International

The disease is far more common in children of Southeast Asian and Northern African descent, with an incidence of 8-25 in every 100,000 children annually.

Mortality/Morbidity

When radiotherapy is used alone, survival rates range from 40-50%. Use of combination radiation therapy and chemotherapy allows long-term survival rates of 55-80%.

Race

In the United States, the incidence of nasopharyngeal carcinoma is increased among black teenagers. [2] Children of Asian, Middle Eastern, and Northern African descent are also more commonly affected.

Sex

A male preponderance is observed. The male-to-female ratio is approximately 2:1.

Age

Nasopharyngeal carcinoma has a bimodal age distribution. A small peak is observed in late childhood, and a second peak occurs in people aged 50-60 years. Childhood nasopharyngeal carcinoma is usually a disease of adolescence. [3]

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