We investigated the association of polymorphisms of drug-metabolizing enzymes and susceptibility to oral cavity cancer. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based analyses were performed on genomic DNA of 94 Caucasian patients in Germany and 92 healthy German controls to determine genotypes of polymorphisms in CYP1A1, GSTM1 and NAT2. For CYP1A1, the homozygous mutant genotype Val/Val did not occur. The heterozygous genotype Ile/Val (6.5% cases versus 4.3% controls) and the homozygous wild-type Ile/Ile (95.7% cases versus 93.5% controls) showed no statistically significant differences between groups (X(2)=0.47; P=0.534, Fisher's exact test, two-sided). The GSTM1 homozygous null genotype occurred more frequently in cancer patients (59.6%) compared to controls (53.3%) but this difference remained insignificant in X(2)-analysis (X(2)=1.07; P=0.587). Almost identical genotype distributions between cases and controls were found for all three NAT2 acetylators. Hence, these three genetic polymorphisms are unlikely to be associated with oral cavity cancer in the population studied.