NPC a type of nose cancer

Illu nose nasal cavities

Image via Wikipedia

NPC; you might not heard of it but if you live in Asia it is very common.

NPC stands for nasopharyngeal carcinoma and is the most common cancer that originates at the nasopharynx (an area around the back of your nose and upper throat).  It is not a very common cancer in the West with a frequency of about 1 per 100,000 people who develop this type of disease.  However, in Southern China, Taiwan, Singapore and other parts of SE Asia, the disease is more common and occurs in 25 out of 100,000 people.

There are two main types of this cancer and they are undifferentiated carcinoma and squamous cell type carcinoma.  These terms refer primarily to the way these cancers look under the microscope which is related to the different cells that are affected in both types.  Caucasians tend to only get the squamous form of the cancer while Asians typically get the undifferentiated forms.  There are two subtypes to the undifferentiated forms and they vary due to the production of keratin and the keratinizing form tends to be a bit more aggressive form of the disease.

Like many other cancers, the disease has a very good prognosis if caught early (ie. caught at the 1st or 2nd stage) but has a more serious mortality rate when caught later.  This is due to the fact that the cancerous cells tend to migrate or metastasize to the nearby lymphnodes where it can spread to other locations and is much more difficult to treat.  Treatment includes surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, but again is limited when the disease is advanced.

No one knows for sure what causes NPC but there are some strong associations or indicators of increased risk.  The salted/preserved foods of the Cantonese diet have been strongly associated with the NPC in SE Asia.  However, it is difficult to prove this association at the moment.  Another culprit for certain forms of the disease is viral.  EBV or Epstein Barr Virus is strongly associated with the development of certain forms of NPC.  Although, most adults are exposed to EBV in their lifetimes and in a certain number of people the virus aids in the transformation process of the cancer cell itself.  Exposure to certain environmental toxins may also lead to the development of this disease as well.

It is one of many cancers ion which active research is badly needed and there are some labs focusing on it in China and elsewhere in SE Asia.  One day, we will understand more about this disease and be able to treat it better and understand how to avoid it.

Thank you for reading….please do visit Cancer Made Simple for more information.

Dr. C


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