Risk Factors and Symptoms of Nasal/Paranasal Cancer

Risk Factors

  • Radiation exposure for non-cancerous reasons is a risk factor for salivary gland cancers
  • Occupational exposure to wood dust, asbestos and synthetic fabrics have been associated with cancers of the larynx and nasopharyngeal region. Industrial exposure to wood or nickel dust or formaldehyde is also a risk factor for cancers of the paranasal sinuses and nasal cavity.
  • Alcohol and tobacco use represent a 75% of the risk factors especially cancers of the oral cavity, oropharynx (part of the throat at the back of the mouth), hypopharynx (lower part of the throat at the back of the mouth), and larynx or voice box. People who use both tobacco and alcohol are at greater risk of developing these cancers than people who use either tobacco or alcohol alone.
  • Infection with cancer-causing types of human papillomavirus (HPV), especially HPV type 16, affects particularly the tonsils or the base of the tongue. The incidence of oropharyngeal cancers caused by HPV infection is increasing, while the incidence of these cancers related to other causes is falling. (National Cancer Institute)
  • Epstein-Barr virus is a risk factor for nasopharyngeal cancer and cancer of the salivary glands
  • Asian ancestry, particularly Chinese ancestry, is a risk factor for nasopharyngeal cancer.

(National Cancer Institute)


In the early stages, there are very few symptoms that are hardly noticeable because the large cavities that form this region allow a tumour to grow unnoticed. As the tumour grows, the following symptoms may appear:

  • nosebleeds
  • mucus discharge from the nose
  • mucus draining from the back of the nose into the throat
  • a lump or growth on the face, on the palate (the roof of the mouth) or inside the nose
  • headache
  • sinus pain
  • pain above or below the eyes
  • watery eyes causing tears to run down the cheek
  • numbness, pain and swelling on the face, especially the upper cheek area
  • loose or numb upper teeth or changes in how dentures fit
  • swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • loss of sense of smell
  • bulging of one eye
  • loss or change of vision
  • pain or pressure in one of the ears
  • loss of hearing
  • trouble opening the mouth
  • changes to speech

(Canadian Cancer Society)