The role of cigarette smoking, alcohol use, family history of cancer and the interaction of cigarettes and family history in the etiology of Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) in general and within each histologic type are unclear. We conducted a case-control study among 1,044 Han Chinese patients with NPC and 1,095 Han Chinese cancer-free control subjects. Logistic regression was used to analyze the association between histologic type of NPC and cigarette smoking, alcohol drinking and family history. The results indicated that NPC was significantly associated with cigarette smoking [adjusted odds ratio (OR) = 2.97, 95% confidence interval (CI), 2.38-3.70], and the association exhibited a dose-response relationship for intensity, duration, and cumulative consumption of cigarettes (p(trend) < 0.0001 for intensity, duration and cumulative consumption of cigarettes). Positive family history of cancer led to a significant 12-fold elevated risk of NPC (adjusted OR = 12.95, 95% CI, 7.12-23.54) and acted jointly with cigarettes in contributing to NPC risk (adjusted OR = 56.68, 95% CI, 17.25-186.19). The association of NPC risk with cigarettes was stronger for nonkeratinizing carcinoma than for keratinizing squamous cell carcinoma (KSCC), whereas family history was more closely associated with KSCC. NPC risk was not associated with alcohol consumption. Our study demonstrated that cigarette smoking and family history of cancer could serve independently and jointly as risk factors for etiology of NPC and might affect the risk of histology-specific NPC differently. This knowledge may help facilitate comprehension of NPC etiology in general as well as within each histologic type, and thereby improve prevention efforts.
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