BACKGROUND Positivity of plasma Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-DNA or serum virus capsid antigen-specific IgA (VCA-IgA) is a biomarker for the prognosis of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC). The objective of this study was to determine the value of positivity for plasma EBV-DNA and/or VCA-IgA in predicting the survival of patients with NPC. METHODS Plasma EBV-DNA and serum VCA-IgA in 506 NPC patients in this retrospective study were detected by quantitative real time polymerase chain reaction and enzyme-linked immunoabsorbent assay, respectively. The value of positivity for EBV-DNA and/or VCA-IgA in predicting the survival of patients with NPC was analyzed. RESULTS Patients with positivity for both EBV-DNA and VCA-IgA had significantly shorter periods of relapse free survival (RFS) and overall survival (OS) than those with positive single measure or negative for both measures, and patients with positive single measure had significantly shorter periods of RFS and OS than those with negative for both. Multivariate analysis indicated that the positivity for EBV-DNA and/or VCA-IgA were significant risk factors for shorter periods of RFS and OS. CONCLUSION These data indicated that positivity for both EBV-DNA and VCA-IgA was a better biomarker for the prognosis of patients with NPC. Our findings may provide new references for clinical practice.