Background: Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is a relatively uncommon cancer in the United States. Its etiology among White Americans is not well known, but cigarette smoking has been implicated in some epidemiologic studies.
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate the roles of cigarette use and alcohol consumption as risk factors for NPC in the United States.
Methods: We conducted a case-control study using data from the National Mortality Followback Survey based on information from death certificates. In this study, we compared use of cigarettes and alcohol by 204 White American men and women who died of NPC with that by 408 who died of causes unrelated to cigarette smoking and alcohol use.
Results: Risk of NPC increased in proportion to the amount and duration of smoking (with a more than threefold increase among persons smoking heavily) and declined following cessation of smoking. After controlling for smoking, we found an 80% excess risk of NPC among persons whose intake of alcohol was heavy.
Conclusion: Use of cigarettes and consumption of alcohol were found to be statistically significant risk factors for NPC. The findings are among the strongest to date indicating that use of cigarettes and perhaps alcohol may contribute to the etiology of these relatively rare cancers among Whites in the United States.