nasopharyngeal carcinoma

Last edited 12/2018 and last reviewed 01/2022

Nasopharyngeal carcinoma is a poorly differentiated carcinoma that may appear at any site in the upper respiratory tract, but most commonly, in the lateral wall of the nasopharynx around the ostium of the Eustachian tube - the fossa of Rosenmuller.

It is most commonly seen in south-east Asia, especially in the Chinese, in whom it appears to be a genetically- determined risk. It may be associated with the Epstein-Barr virus, with exposure to smoke or to chemical pollutants, and in California and Malaysia, to the ingestion of salted fish.

Presentation tends to be late and due to features of metastases rather than of the primary tumour. Both older people over 50 years of age, and people in the second and third decades are usually affected.