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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2006 Oct;15(10):1765-77.

The enigmatic epidemiology of nasopharyngeal carcinoma.

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  • 1Northern California Cancer Center, 2201 Walnut Avenue, Suite 300, Fremont, CA 94538, USA. ellen@nccc.org

Abstract

Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) has a unique and complex etiology that is not completely understood. Although NPC is rare in most populations, it is a leading form of cancer in a few well-defined populations, including natives of southern China, Southeast Asia, the Arctic, and the Middle East/North Africa. The distinctive racial/ethnic and geographic distribution of NPC worldwide suggests that both environmental factors and genetic traits contribute to its development. This review aims to summarize the current knowledge regarding the epidemiology of NPC and to propose new avenues of research that could help illuminate the causes and ultimately the prevention of this remarkable disease. Well-established risk factors for NPC include elevated antibody titers against the Epstein-Barr virus, consumption of salt-preserved fish, a family history of NPC, and certain human leukocyte antigen class I genotypes. Consumption of other preserved foods, tobacco smoking, and a history of chronic respiratory tract conditions may be associated with elevated NPC risk, whereas consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and other human leukocyte antigen genotypes may be associated with decreased risk. Evidence for a causal role of various inhalants, herbal medicines, and occupational exposures is inconsistent. Other than dietary modification, no concrete preventive measures for NPC exist. Given the unresolved gaps in understanding of NPC, there is a clear need for large-scale, population-based molecular epidemiologic studies to elucidate how environmental, viral, and genetic factors interact in both the development and the prevention of this disease.

PMID:
17035381
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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