Constitutively activated signal transducers and activators of transcription (STAT) factors, in particular STAT1, STAT3 and STAT5, have been demonstrated in a variety of human tumours and cancer cell lines. However, data on the expression of these STATs in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) are limited. In this study, the expression patterns of STAT1, STAT3 and STAT5 were immunohistochemically examined on the archival specimens from 61 patients with NPC. Staining results of each STATs were then correlated with the clinical parameters and prognosis of these patients. The results showed that constitutive activation of STAT3 and STAT5 was detected in the majority, 70.5 and 62.3%, respectively, of the 61 tumour specimens. Furthermore, coexpression of activated STAT3 and STAT5 was found in 54.1% of the specimens. In contrast, constitutive activated STAT1 could only be detected in 8 (13.1%) cases. Surprisingly, following radiotherapy, patients with constitutive STAT5 activation, or activation of both STAT3 and STAT5, had better disease-free survival and overall survival than those without activated STAT5. To our knowledge, this is the first report providing the overall expression patterns and prognostic significance of specific STATs in NPC.