To ascertain if concurrent chemotherapy (CCT) benefits people with stage II nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) treated with two-dimensional radiotherapy (2DRT) or intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT). A total of 4157 patients diagnosed with stage II NPC were evaluated. Patients received radiotherapy (RT) with/without CCT. Patients were divided into 2DRT and IMRT subgroups. After propensity score matching, the role of CCT was explored in these two subgroups. Overall survival (OS) was the primary endpoint and progression-free survival (PFS), locoregional relapse-free survival (LRFS) and distant metastasis-free survival (DMFS) were secondary endpoints. In the 2DRT subgroup, CCT addition to RT benefited cases with T1N1/T2N1 in OS, PFS and LRFS (P < .001, P = .003 and P = .003, respectively) significantly, but no difference was observed in patients with T2N0. DMFS were similar in the two arms. CCT was a significant protective factor for OS, PFS, and LRFS for patients with stage N1. In the IMRT subgroup, RT alone could maintain equivalent OS, PFS, LRFS and DMFS (P = .209, .448, .477 and .602 respectively) and cause less acute toxicity compared with concurrent chemoradiotherapy (CCRT). CCRT was better than 2DRT alone among patients with T1-2N1M0 stage. CCT application for NPC patients receiving IMRT led to no survival benefit and greater toxic effects. © 2019 The Authors. Cancer Medicine published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.