The feasibility of using elevated Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) specific-IgG antiviral capsid antigen (VCA) and IgA anti-VCA antibody levels as an aid in diagnosis of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) was analyzed by determination of serum antibody titers to EBV in 54 NPC patients, 114 healthy blood donors, and 40 family members by the immunoperoxidase assay (IPA). No significant difference was found in the prevalence rate of EBV IgG anti-VCA antibodies (titer greater than or equal to 20) between the patient group and the control and family groups (100% vs 92% and 90%, respectively). The prevalence rate of elevated EBV IgG anti-VCA titers (greater than or equal to 80, greater than or equal to 160, greater than or equal to 320, greater than or equal to 640) was significantly higher in the NPC patients than in controls. For example, at an IgG titer of greater than or equal to 320, the prevalence rate was 82% in the NPC patient group and 1.7% in the controls (P less than 0.0001). The prevalence of EBV IgA anti-VCA antibodies (greater than or equal to 10) was significantly higher in the NPC patients than in control and family groups (82% vs 6.1% and 0%, respectively). The prevalence rate for elevated EBV IgA anti-VCA (greater than or equal to 20) was found to be significantly higher (P less than 0.0001) in NPC patients than in the control group (70% vs. 1.7%). A significantly high proportion (P = 0.0004) of NPC patients who had serum EBV IgA anti-VCA titers of less than 20 had elevated IgG titers to VCA greater than or equal to 320 (21% vs 1.7% among controls). It appears that testing for IgG antibodies at a serum dilution of 1:320 and for IgA antibodies at a dilution of 1:20 by the IPA technique comprises the best combination for the differentiation between NPC patients and health controls (91% vs 3.4%), and it is suggested that these be used as screening markers for NPC patients.