We analysed 30 primary invasive oral and laryngeal squamous carcinomas (SC), with concurrent dysplastic lesions, for genetic alterations at 15 microsatellite loci on the short arm of chromosome 8. Overall, loss of heterozygosity (LOH) was observed, in at least one informative locus, in 27% of the dysplastic lesions and in 67% of the invasive carcinomas. The highest frequency of allele losses in dysplasia (20% and 17%), and invasive carcinoma (40% and 48%) were detected in the same D8S298 and LPL-tet loci located on chromosomes 8p21 and 8p22 respectively. The minimal region with LOH was limited to 4.6 megaBases (mBs) at 8p22 and 7.1 mBs at 8p21. In addition, allelic losses in both dysplastic and corresponding invasive specimens were noted at the same loci in some tumors suggesting their emergence from a common preneoplastic clone. Allele losses correlated significantly with male gender, oral and laryngeal sites and high proliferative index. The data suggest that inactivation of tumor suppressor gene(s), within these loci, may constitute an early event in the evolution of oral and laryngeal SC.