Sixteen cases of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (eight anaplastic and eight well differentiated squamous types) were examined for the presence of human papillomavirus types 16 and 18 genomes using the polymerase chain reaction on paraffin wax embedded biopsy specimens. Although nasopharyngeal carcinoma, particularly the anaplastic type, is strongly associated with Epstein-Barr virus, other factors may be involved in its pathogenesis. No DNA of either human papillomavirus subtype was detected. It is concluded, therefore, that these two "high risk" types of human papillomavirus are not implicated in the pathogenesis of nasopharyngeal carcinoma. The number of cases in this series was small, however, and further studies are warranted using fresh biopsy material and including other viral subtypes.