To define the patterns of genetic imbalances in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC), we studied 30 primary NPC tumors with comparative genomic hybridization (CGH). The common sites of chromosomal gains were found in descending order of frequency in 12p11.2-p12 (36%), 12q14-q21 (33%), 2q24-q31 (23%), 1q31-qter (20%), 3q13 (20%), 1q13.3 (20%), 5q21 (17%), 6q14-q22 (13%), 7q21 (13%), 8q11.2-q23 (13%) and 18q12-qter (13%). The common sites of chromosomal loss were at 3p14-p21 (20%), 11q23-qter (20%), 16q21-qter (17%) and 14q24-qter (13%). Correlation with clinicopathologic features showed that 3p loss was associated with a significantly higher risk of death related to recurrence as compared with patients without 3p loss (50% vs. 9%, P=.029). The presence of 16q loss was associated with more advanced stage tumors (stages I & II: 6% vs. stages III & IV: 33%, P=.046). We conclude that consistent patterns of genetic imbalances can be observed in NPC. Deletion of 3p and 16q were associated with higher risk of tumor recurrence and advanced stage cancer.