Nasal and paranasal sinus cancers

What is nasal and paranasal sinus cancer?

Cancer occurs when cells become abnormal, grow uncontrollably and have the potential to spread to other parts of the body. These cells build up to form a mass (or lump). 
Different types of cancer can develop from the different kinds of cells in the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses. The most common are called squamous cell carcinoma (arising from the lining of the nasal cavity and the paranasal sinuses) and adenocarcinoma (arising from the small gland cells throughout the sinuses).

Nasal and paranasal cancers are relatively rare. The most common location of paranasal sinus cancer is the maxillary sinus. 

What causes nasal and paranasal sinus cancer?
Doctors can’t always explain why a person gets cancer. But we do know what makes some cancers more likely. 

The two main causes of nasal and paranasal sinus cancers are: 
  • smoking (cigarettes, cigars or pipes) or using ‘smokeless’ tobacco (snuff and chewing tobacco) If a person smokes or has smoked in the past, they have a higher risk of getting nasal and paranasal sinus cancer than someone who has never smoked. 
  • drinking alcohol. If a person drinks a lot of alcohol over many years, they have a higher risk of getting nasal and paranasal sinus cancer, especially combined with smoking.
  • breathing in certain chemicals or dust that may cause cancer including wood dust (hard and soft wood), leather dust (e.g. shoe making), chromium, nickel, heavy metal exposure, formaldehyde, cloth fibres (e.g. textile manufacturing) and mineral oils (used in metal work and printing
Other factors that may increase the risk of nasal and paranasal sinus cancer are: 
Being male – in Australia nasal and paranasal sinus cancers are twice as common in men compared to women 
Age - most nasal and para nasal sinus cancers are common in people aged 45 years and over