Population-based incidence data on nasopharyngeal carcinomas (NPC) from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results program in the United States were examined for the years 1973-1986. The 1,645 cases showed incidence rates varying according to ethnic origin, with chinese having the highest, followed by Filipinos, Blacks and Whites. In females the incidence was about half of that seen in males, in each of these groups. There was no evidence of changes in incidence rates during the study period. An analysis of survival with NPC was undertaken using hazard function regression models to allow for control of multiple variables. Survival was found to be independently influenced by age and stage at diagnosis, histologic type, grade and sex. Significant ethnic differences in survival remained after adjustment for these factors, with Chinese surviving longest followed by Filipinos, Whites and Blacks. These difference in survival remained after control for the variation in population-wide mortality rates associated with age, ethnicity, sex and calendar year. We present evidence that survival has improved for this disease over time.