We have examined the hypothesis that the polymorphic, glutathione S-transferase GSTP1 gene is a susceptibility candidate for squamous cell cancer of the oral/pharynx and larynx. We describe GSTP1 genotype frequencies in 380 cases and 180 controls. We found a lower frequency of GSTP1 AA in the oral/pharyngeal cases compared with controls (p = 0.003, odds ratio = 0.47) after correction for age and gender. We used an immunohistochemical approach to show widespread expression of the GSTP1 subunit throughout the pharynx and larynx. In uninfiltrated tissue, strong positivity was found throughout the squamous cell epithelium with the exception of the basal cell layer. The cilia of the respiratory epithelium of the larynx also showed positivity for GSTP1. In tumour tissue, expression of GSTP1 was similar in pharyngeal and laryngeal samples. These data are the first to show that polymorphism at GSTP1 mediates susceptibility to squamous cell cancer of the upper aerodigestive tract. No significant interactions were identified between GSTP1 and GSTM1, GSTM3, GSTT1 and the cytochrome P450 CYP1A1, CYP2D6 and CYP1A1 genotypes.