This study was undertaken to determine whether the survival of Hispanic patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck was different from that of Anglo-American patients. The charts of 275 male patients with a diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck at one Veterans Administration Hospital were reviewed in an attempt to identify prognostic indicators for both ethnic groups. No differences were observed between Anglo-American and Hispanic patients with respect to sites of the primary tumor, age at diagnosis, performance status, or the frequency of surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy; however, there was a tendency for Hispanic patients to have received more treatment. There also was a trend (P = 0.12) for Hispanic patients to have a more advanced stage of cancer. Hispanic patients lost significantly more weight (P less than 0.001) and had significantly lower serum albumin levels (P less than 0.0001). According to the results of multivariate survival analyses, the variables that were predictive of a poor prognosis included advanced stage of disease, decreased serum albumin levels, increased weight loss, administration of chemotherapy, lack of radiation therapy or surgery, and advanced age. Ethnicity was not a significant predictor of survival either in univariate analyses, or within patients with the same stage of disease, or after adjustment for other prognostic factors. In conclusion, the natural history of squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck is the same for Hispanic and Anglo-American patients.