Two hundred fifty incident cases of nasopharyngeal carcinoma under age 35 years in Hong Kong Chinese and an equal number of age- and sex-matched friend controls were interviewed. Mothers of cases and controls were interviewed also, if available, to obtain information on childhood events concerning the study subjects. Consumption of Cantonese-style salted fish during all time periods was significantly associated with nasopharyngeal carcinoma; the association was especially strong during childhood. The relative risk for having Cantonese-style salted fish as one of the first solid foods during weaning was 7.5 (95% confidence limits, 3.9, 14.8), and the relative risk for consuming the food at least once a week compared to less than once a month at age 10 years was 37.7 (95% confidence limits, 14.1, 100.4). It is estimated that over 90% of young nasopharyngeal carcinoma cases in Hong Kong Chinese can be attributed to consumption of this food during childhood.

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Supported in part by Grants CA00884 from the National Cancer Institute and SIG-2 from the American Cancer Society, donations from Mr. Wong Hoo Chuen of Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong Anti-Cancer Society.

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