Several polymorphic glutathione S-transferase enzymes are involved in the detoxification of active metabolites of many potential carcinogens from tobacco smoke and may therefore be important in modulating susceptibility to smoking-related cancers. As part of a hospital-based case-control study performed in France among Caucasian smokers, we studied GSTM1, GSTM3, GSTP1 and GSTT1 gene polymorphisms in 121 patients with oral cavity and pharyngeal cancers and 172 hospital controls using peripheral blood DNA. An increase in risk was found among carriers of the GSTP1 (AG or GG) genotype (OR 1.6, 95% CI 1.0-2.8, p = 0.07) or the GSTT1 null genotype (OR 2.0, 95% CI 1.0-4.0, p = 0.05). The effect of these at-risk genotypes was most marked in subjects with a history of more than 30 years of smoking, among whom the respective ORs were 2.0 (95% CI 1.0-3.9) and 3.3 (95% CI 1.3-8.1), though the interaction tests between these genotypes and duration of smoking were not significant. In contrast, neither the GSTM1 null genotype nor the GSTM3 AA genotype was associated with oropharyngeal cancer risk (OR 0.9, 95% CI 0.5-1.5 and OR = 1.3, 95% CI 0.7-2.3, respectively). Our results thus suggest that GSTP1 and GSTT1 gene polymorphisms modulate susceptibility to smoking-related cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx.