To examine which proteins are responsible for the elevated protein tyrosine kinase (PTK) activity in human head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) and adjacent histologically normal epithelium, paraffin embedded sections of these tissues were stained for PTK c-Src. Using double labeling techniques and antibodies against both the proliferation marker Ki-67 and PTK c-Src, we have shown that c-Src is overexpressed in areas of hyperproliferation in HNSCC, dysplastic epithelium, benign papillomas and inflamed normal tissue. Our data indicate that c-Src is (one of) the protein(s) responsible for the increased PTK activity in HNSCC. We could not demonstrate that c-Src expression is responsible for the increased PTK activity in normal epithelium adjacent to tumour tissue. We assume that c-Src plays a role in the increased proliferation seen in (pre)malignant and benign epithelial lesions as well as in reactive inflammatory epithelial hyperplasia.