Cancers of the nasopharynx account for 0.1 % of all cancers and differ from Tumours in other parts of the pharynx by not being associated with tobacco or alcohol. There is a high incidence (lifetime risk 1.6 %) of nasopharyngeal carcinoma among the southern Chinese (100-fold higher than that of European populations), and both environmental (high dietary intake of salted fish and, particularly, Epstein–Barr virus, EBV) and genetic factors have been implicated. Familial clustering of nasopharyngeal carcinoma is well recognized (Zeng and Jia 2002).
Using meta-analysis, Burt et al. (1996) also demonstrated a significant association with HLA types in non-Chinese populations. This work has been followed up by more detailed studies, and HLA-A has been consistently shown to be associated with nasopharyngeal carcinoma susceptibility (Lu et al. 2005). A genome-wide association study confirmed the role of HLA and also identified novel associations at MDS1-EVI1 (3q26), CDKN2A/CDKN2B (9p21), and TNFRSF19 (13q12), implicating the TGF-β and JNK signaling pathways in susceptibility to nasopharyngeal carcinoma (Bei et al. 2010).