Risk factors for sinus cancer

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by

Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science.

This page was updated on June 6, 2022.

Certain lifestyle behaviors and environmental factors, such as smoking and exposure to carcinogens, may increase the risk of developing sinus cancer. Risk factors for sinus cancer also depend on the location of the cancer and the cancer type.


  • Workplace exposure to certain chemicals and substances may increase the risk of sinus cancer, especially in those involved in:
    • Woodwork
    • Working with nickel and other heavy metals

Cancer specific

  • The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), known for causing mononucleosis in young adults, may be associated with the development of certain cancers, including nasopharyngeal cancer. EBV is prevalent in individuals of Asian ancestry and those who eat lots of smoked fish.


  • Smoking could increase the risk of nasal cavity cancer and nasopharyngeal cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, 85 percent of people diagnosed with head and neck cancers have used tobacco, particularly cigarettes.
  • Alcohol abuse may increase the risk of all head and neck cancers.

Other conditions

  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection has been found in some cancers of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses.

Previous treatment

  • Exposure to high doses of radiation therapy, particularly in the head or neck region, may raise the risk of sinus and other head and neck cancers.
  • Patients who undergo radiation for retinoblastoma, an inherited eye cancer typically found in children, have an increased risk of developing nasal cavity cancer.

Next topic: What are the symptoms of sinus cancer?

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