In Singapore, the most common head and neck cancer occurs at the junction of the back of the nose and the top of the throat (pharynx). It is called nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC), which is a form of nose cancer.
There are approximately 400 new cases of NPC diagnosed each year and it is the sixth most common type of cancer in Singapore.
Causes of Nasopharynx CancerThe exact cause of nasopharyngeal or nasopharynx cancer remains unknown. However, the condition is strongly associated with three primary etiological factors: the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection, ethnic and familial trends, and diet. All these are said to contribute to a heightened risk of cancer development.
The Epstein-Barr virus is a form of herpes infection that commonly causes mononucleosis and a range of flu-like symptoms like fever, sore throat and swollen glands. However, it has been observed that the virus can also contribute to the development of nose and <throat cancers, including nasopharynx cancer.
Ethnic and Familial Trends
Nasopharynx cancer commonly occurs in parts of Southern China, Southeast Asia and Northern Africa. Those with family members who have been diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer also have a higher risk of acquiring it, and so they are recommended to get screened earlier and more frequently.
People who have a diet rich in salt-cured meat, fish and vegetables may be susceptible to NPC, especially when exposed to steam resulting from the cooking process. Steaming salt-cured food causes chemicals to be released, which enter the nasal cavity.