In tumour biology, nitric oxide (NO) has a complex array of concentration-dependent actions, including both inhibitory and promoting effects. It is thought that the levels of NO found in many human cancers lead to enhanced angiogenesis and tumour dissemination. In the current study, we assessed the immunohistochemical expression of the enzyme type II nitric oxide synthase (NOS2) in 41 cases of oral squamous cell carcinoma and correlated the findings with lymph node status. A significant relationship was found between NOS2 expression and lymph node metastasis (P<0.0002). Furthermore, lymph node metastasis correlated with the degree and intensity of staining seen (P<0.001). No correlation was found between the size of the primary tumour, degree of tumour differentiation or smoking status and NOS2 staining. Western blotting confirmed NOS2 protein expression in select cases. As with many other human tumours, NOS2 is not a ubiquitous finding in oral cancer. Its expression may be of value in assessing lymph node status prior to surgery, and it represents a target for possible therapeutic manipulation.