We have investigated the association between the polymorphisms of drug-metabolizing enzymes and susceptibility to head-and-neck squamous-cell carcinoma (HNSCC). PCR-based analysis was performed on 145 Japanese patients and 164 healthy Japanese controls to determine genotypes of polymorphisms in CYP1A1, CYP2E1, GSTM1, GSTP1, and NAT2. Patients and controls were compared by multivariate analysis. The CYP1A1 Val/Val genotype was seen more frequently in patients than in controls [odds ratio (OR) 4.1, p = 0.038). The frequency of the slow plus intermediate NAT2 genotypes was also higher in patients (OR 2.0, p = 0.039). When we analyzed the distributions of the genotypes in 69 laryngeal and 45 pharyngeal cancer patients, laryngeal cancer patients had a higher frequency of NAT2 slow or intermediate genotype (OR 2.7, p = 0.011) and GSTP1 AA genotype (OR 2.4, p = 0.047) than controls. Pharyngeal cancer patients had a higher frequency of the CYP1A1 Val/Val genotype than controls (OR 5.7, p = 0.034), suggesting that different organs may be responsive to different chemicals from the environment. Furthermore, 23 patients who developed multiple cancers (HNSCC plus other) were compared with 115 patients with HNSCC alone. There was no significant difference in the polymorphisms between the 2 groups, though excessive alcohol consumption (more than 50 g/day of ethanol) appeared to be a risk factor for multiple cancers (p = 0.053).