We studied epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene amplification and expression in 11 early passage human head and neck carcinoma cell lines. Three cell lines demonstrated EGFR gene amplification and 10 lines showed an increase in EGFR mRNA when compared with normal keratinocytes, placenta, and a human skin carcinoma cell line. The effects of EGF on growth in 6 head and neck carcinoma cell lines was also studied. Growth inhibition at a concentration of 20 ng/mL was observed in one cell line but had no effect on growth in 5 cell lines. An increase in EGFR may be important in the etiology of, or progression of, head and neck carcinoma although the mechanisms need to be elucidated by further study.