Inter-individual differences in DNA repair capacity have been demonstrated using a variety of phenotypic assays, including reduced repair among patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN). The XRCC1 DNA repair gene may facilitate DNA strand break and base excision repair. A recent case-control study of SCCHN reported associations with two polymorphisms of the XRCC1 including the exon 6, 194Arg/Arg genotype and the exon 10, 399 Gln/Gln genotype. We conducted an analysis of these two XRCC1 polymorphisms using data from a case-control study of SCCHN. Among white subjects, we found a weak elevation in risk associated with the Arg194Trp polymorphism [odds ratio (OR)=1.3; 95% confidence interval (CI)=0.6-2.9] and a decreased risk for the Arg399Gln polymorphism (OR=0.6; CI=0.4-1.1). We found a markedly decreased odds ratio for the Gln/Gln genotype among whites (OR=0.1; CI=0.04-0.6) and blacks (OR=0.01; CI=0.0004-0.3). We also found a suggestion of an interaction between the Arg194Trp and Arg399Gln polymorphisms and tobacco use. Additional epidemiologic and functional studies are needed to resolve the importance of these XRCC1 polymorphisms in SCCHN.