Although identification of human papilloma virus (HPV) status in oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC) is essential in predicting treatment response, no imaging modality can currently determine whether a tumor is HPV-related. In this retrospective study, 26 patients with OPSCC confined to the lateral wall or the base of tongue underwent neck magnetic resonance imaging, using T1-, T2- and diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI). Apparent diffusion coefficients (ADCs) in a region of interest covering the largest available primary tumor area of OPSCC on a single slice of the ADC map were calculated using two b values (0 and 1,000 s/mm(2)). Mean and minimum ADCs were compared with HPV status, using p16 immunohistochemistry as a surrogate marker for HPV infection. Mean and minimum ADCs for HPV(+) OPSCC were significantly lower than those for HPV(-) OPSCC. A cut-off value of mean ADC for HPV(+) OPSCC of 1.027 × 10(-3) mm(2)/s yielded sensitivity and specificity of 83.33 and 78.57%, respectively. In conclusion, the present study indicates that ADC could be used to predict HPV status in patients with OPSCC.