Importance: Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is endemic in some Asian regions but is uncommon in the United States. Little is known about the racial, demographic, and biological characteristics of the disease in pediatric patients.
Objectives: To improve understanding of the differences between pediatric and adult NPC and to determine whether race conferred a survival difference among pediatric patients with NPC.
Design, setting, and participants: This retrospective cohort study included all 17 317 patients with a primary diagnosis of NCP in the National Cancer Data Base from January 1, 1998, to December 31, 2011. Of these, 699 patients were 21 years or younger (pediatric); 16 618 patients, older than 21 years (adult). Data were analyzed after data collection.
Exposure: Pediatric age at diagnosis of NPC.
Main outcomes and measures: Demographic, tumor, and treatment characteristics of pediatric patients with NPC were compared with those of adults using the χ2 test for categorical variables. An adjusted Cox proportional hazards regression model was used to examine survival differences in pediatric patients relative to adult patients. In addition, the risk for pediatric mortality by race was estimated.
Results: Of the 17 317 patients, a total of 699 pediatric and 16 618 adult patients were identified with a primary diagnosis of NPC (female, 239 pediatric patients [34.2%] and 5153 adult patients [32.4%]). Pediatric patients were most commonly black (299 of 686 [43.6%]), whereas adults were most likely to be non-Hispanic white (9839 of 16 504 [60.0%]; P < .001). Pediatric patients were less likely to be Asian (39 of 686 [5.7%]) than were adults (3226 of 16 405 [19.7%]; P < .001). Pediatric patients were more likely to have regional nodal evaluation and to present with stage IV disease (227 of 643 [35.3%] and 330 of 565 [58.4%], respectively) than were adult patients (3748 of 15 631 [24.0%] and 6553 of 13 721 [47.8%], respectively; P < .001 for both comparisons). Pediatric patients had a lower risk for mortality relative to adults (hazard ratio, 0.37; 95% CI, 0.25-0.56). No difference in mortality by racial group was found among pediatric patients (hazard ratio, 1.10; 95% CI, 0.82-1.40).
Conclusions and relevance: Pediatric patients with NPC were more commonly black and presented more frequently with stage IV disease. Pediatric patients had a decreased mortality risk relative to adults, even after adjusting for covariables. Asian race was not associated with increased mortality in pediatric patients with NPC. Racial differences are not associated with an increased risk for mortality among pediatric patients.