Abstract Background Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is a malignancy predominantly associated with infection by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Approximately 12,900 new cases of NPC occur each year, with more than 70% of cases occurring in the east and southeast Asia. NPC is different from ordinary head and neck squamous cell carcinoma due to its particular biological properties and it is highly sensitive to radiotherapy. With the development of RT technology, the 3-year local control rate and survival rates of non-metastatic NPC reached 80–90% in the intensity-modulated RT (IMRT) era. However, whether distant metastatic NPC (de novo mNPC, dmNPC) should receive locoregional RT (LRRT) needs to be clarified. Results Multivariate analysis identified three independent prognostic factors: Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) DNA, number of metastatic lesions, and number of metastatic organs. Through these factors, all patients were successfully divided into 3 subgroups: low-risk (single metastatic organ, EBV DNA ≤ 25,000 copies/ml, and ≤ 5 metastatic lesions), intermediate-risk (single metastatic organ, EBV DNA > 25,000 copies/ml, and ≤ 5 metastatic lesions), and high-risk (multiple metastatic organs or > 5 metastatic lesions or both). By comparing LRRT and non-LRRT groups, statistical differences were found in OS in the low-risk and intermediate-risk subgroups (p = 0.039 and p = 0.010, respectively) but no significant difference was found in OS in the high-risk subgroup (p = 0.076). Further multivariate analysis of different risk stratifications revealed that LRRT can improve OS of low- and intermediate-risk subgroups. Conclusions The risk stratification of dmNPC may be used as a new prognostic factor to help clinicians organize individualized LRRT treatment to improve the survival outcomes of dmNPC patients.