The incidence rates of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) are dramatically higher in certain regions of Asia compared to the rest of the world. Few risk factors for NPC are known; however, in contrast to the hypothesized health benefits of nonpreserved vegetables, it is thought that preserved vegetable intake may play a role in contributing to the higher incidence of NPC in high-risk regions. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to systematically review the epidemiologic evidence on the associations between adulthood intake of preserved and nonpreserved vegetables and NPC risk. A search of the epidemiological literature from 1966 to 2004 was performed using several bibliographic databases, including PubMed and the Chinese Biomedical Literature Database System. There were no language restrictions. Meta-analysis was conducted to obtain pooled odds ratios (ORs) for the highest-versus-lowest categories of preserved and nonpreserved vegetable intake. A total of 16 case-control studies were identified in the search. Results showed that highest-versus-lowest preserved vegetable intake was associated with a 2-fold increase in the risk of NPC (Random Effects Odds Ratio (RE OR) 2.04; 95% Confidence Limits (CL) 1.43, 2.92). Conversely, high nonpreserved vegetable intake was associated with 36% decrease in the risk of NPC (RE OR 0.64; 95% CL 0.48, 0.85). Findings for both preserved and nonpreserved vegetables were consistent across vegetable type and by country of study. Further research in high-risk areas to gain insight into the risk associated with preserved vegetables and protection associated with nonpreserved vegetables may advance understanding of NPC and yield clues for prevention. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.