Nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer

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Risk factors for nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer

A risk factor is something that increases the risk of developing cancer. It could be a behaviour, substance or condition. Most cancers are the result of many risk factors. Being exposed to wood dust is the most important risk factor for cancer of the nasal cavity or a paranasal sinus.

Cancer of the nasal cavity or a paranasal sinus is rare, so it can be hard to figure out what increases the risk for this type of cancer. It is found more often in people older than 40 years of age. More men develop this type of cancer than women, probably because men are more likely to work in the industries that expose them to the risk factors.

Risk factors are generally listed in order from most to least important. But in most cases, it is impossible to rank them with absolute certainty.

Risk factors

Wood dust

Leather dust

Smoking tobacco

Nickel compounds

Inverting papilloma

Isopropyl alcohol production

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection

Radiation therapy for retinoblastoma

There is convincing evidence that the following factors increase your risk for cancer of the nasal cavity or a paranasal sinus.

Wood dust

Being exposed to large amounts of wood dust is an important risk factor for developing cancer of the nasal cavity or a paranasal sinus, especially adenocarcinoma. The risk is high in industries like furniture and cabinet making, sawmill works and carpentry.

Leather dust

People working in shoe and boot manufacturing have a higher risk of developing cancer of the nasal cavity or a paranasal sinus, especially when they are exposed to leather dust.

Smoking tobacco

Smoking tobacco increases the risk of developing cancer of the nasal cavity or a paranasal sinus.

Nickel compounds

Being exposed to dust or chemicals from certain nickel compounds (nickel sulphides and oxides) in the nickel-refining industry increases the risk for cancer of the nasal cavity or a paranasal sinus.

Inverting papilloma

An inverting papilloma is a type of non-cancerous growth on the lining of the nasal cavity or paranasal sinuses. Some inverting papillomas may develop into cancer, so they are often removed by surgery.

Isopropyl alcohol production

Studies show that workers exposed to the strong acid process and chemicals used to make isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) have a higher risk for cancer of the nasal cavity or a paranasal sinus.

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection

Infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) causes a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) called extranodal NK/T-cell lymphoma, nasal type. This form of NHL can affect the nasal passages and paranasal sinuses.

Radiation therapy for retinoblastoma

Retinoblastoma is an eye cancer that develops in children. Children with the hereditary form of retinoblastoma have a higher risk of developing second cancers. Treating retinoblastoma with radiation therapy increases the risk of developing cancer of the nasal cavity or a paranasal sinus later on.

Possible risk factors

The following factors have been linked with nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer, but there is not enough evidence to show for sure that they are risk factors. More research is needed to clarify the role of these factors for nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer.

  • chromium
  • formaldehyde
  • human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
  • smokeless tobacco
  • textile dust

Questions to ask your healthcare team

To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about risks.

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