Nose cancer more common in Chinese population

Nose cancer risk factors are varied, and may include a genetic component. "People of Chinese ancestry, especially Cantonese, have a higher risk of contracting nose cancer, compared to the rest of the population," says Dr Terence Tan, Senior Consultant, Department of Radiation Oncology, National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), a member of the SingHealth group.

To a lesser extent, Malays are also at risk of nose cancer, as shown by statistics from the Singapore Cancer Registry.

In Singapore, nose cancer is the eigth most common cancer in men. But it is actually on the decline here. Dr Tan explains: "Over time, there has been a change in lifestyle and dietary preferences - the younger generation have more food choices and may not always choose salted fish, and cured and preserved meats that are high in salt and cancer-causing nitrites."

Risk factors of nose cancer

  • A family history of nasopharyngeal cancer, properly called nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC).
  • Frequent consumption of preserved food such as salted vegetables, fish and meat. A Singapore study associated these foods with a high risk of nose cancer. The cooking of such foods releases toxic substances called nitrosamines into the fumes that we breathe.
  • Epstein-Barr viral infection. Also called EBV, this infection is caused by a virus from the herpes family. It is best known as the cause of infectious mononucleosis.
  • Smoking. Cigarette smoking has been linked to a large number of cancers, and nose cancer is no exception.

Nose cancer tests and diagnosis

If you are worried about potential signs and symptoms regarding your nose or throat, you should consult your doctor so tests can rule out nose cancer. A typical consultation includes taking a complete medical history and carrying out a physical examination.

Further tests may also be needed, such as a nasendoscopy, where a long, narrow, flexible and lighted tube is inserted through the nose to look for abnormal growths, bleeding, or other signs of disease. A biopsy, where a sample of the abnormal tissue is examined under the microscope to look for cancer cells, may also be necessary.

If it is confirmed that you suffer from nose cancer, other tests might be required to check the extent of the cancer. "This includes blood tests, chest X-rays, and scans of the head and neck, bone and liver," says Dr Tan.

Read on to know more about nose cancer treatment options.

Ref: N18