Oral and pharyngeal cancer (OC) mortality is very low in Greece, especially among men, compared to other European countries. We conducted a case-control study of OC in Athens, and obtained information on tobacco, alcohol use and other potential risk factors and confounding variables for 110 incident cases and 115 hospital-based controls. We used multivariate logistic regression to estimate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Tobacco smoking (pack years, P(trend)=0.01) and alcohol use (drinks/week, P(trend)=0.07) were independent risk factors, with a multiplicative effect for combined exposures (OR, 8.3; 95% CI, 2.4-29.1, for >28 alcohol drinks/week and >50 pack years of cigarette smoking). The type of alcoholic beverage also seemed important: drinking ouzo and tsipouro (liquors of high ethanol concentration) was associated with greater increased OC risk than drinking comparable amounts of wine, beer or dark spirits. While alcohol drinking is more common for male cases versus controls, few men reported regularly consuming large quantities of ethanol associated with highest risk of OC in other studies. This may partially explain the low rates of male OC mortality in Greece. Among the 38% of our cases who were women, however, neither smoking nor alcohol drinking frequencies were significantly elevated compared to controls, and so the etiology of OC risk in females requires further investigation.