Head-and-neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is the sixth most common cancer worldwide, and its incidence is growing. Although environmental carcinogens and carcinogenic viruses are the main etiologic factors, genetic predisposition obviously plays a risk-modulating role, given that not all individuals exposed to these carcinogens experience the disease. This review highlights some aspects of genetic susceptibility to HNSCC: among others, genetic polymorphisms in biotransformation enzymes, DNA repair pathway, apoptotic pathway, human papillomavirus-related pathways, mitochondrial polymorphisms, and polymorphism related to the bilirubin-metabolized pathway. Furthermore, epigenetic variations, familial forms of HNSCC, functional assays for HNSCC risk assessment, and the implications and perspectives of research on genetic susceptibility in HNSCC are discussed.
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