Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) has remarkable epidemiological features, including regional, racial, and familial aggregations. The aim of this review is to describe the epidemiological characteristics of NPC and to propose possible causes for the high incidence patterns in southern China. Since the etiology of NPC is not completely understood, approaches to primary prevention of NPC remain under consideration. This situation highlights the need to conduct secondary prevention, including improving rates of early detection, early diagnosis, and early treatment in NPC patients. Since the 1970's, high-risk populations in southern China have been screened extensively for early detection of NPC using anti-Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) serum biomarkers. This review summarizes several large screening studies that have been conducted in the high-incidence areas of China. Screening markers, high-risk age range for screening, time intervals for blood re-examination, and the effectiveness of these screening studies will be discussed. Conduction of prospective randomized controlled screening trials in southern China can be expected to maximize the cost-effectiveness of early NPC detection screening.