The frequency of nasopharyngeal carcinoma is nearly 100-fold higher in southern Chinese than in most European populations. Earlier studies have suggested that an increased risk of nasopharyngeal carcinoma is associated with specific haplotypes in the HLA region: relative risks slightly over twofold were found for haplotypes A2, Bw46 and the antigen B17. We now report a linkage study based on affected sib pairs which suggests that a gene closely linked to the HLA locus confers a greatly increased risk of nasopharyngeal carcinoma. The maximum likelihood estimate is of a relative risk of approximately 21. The relationship between this suspected disease susceptibility gene (or genes) and known viral and environmental aetiological factors remains to be elucidated.