Background: An ideal prognostic factor would provide information about the biological behaviour of a tumour, permitting the prediction of the outcome and response to therapy. Nowadays there is a considerable confusion concerning the value, significance and use of the know prognostic factors in head and neck cancer.
Material and methods: A meta-analysis of works published in literature between 1993 and August 1997 on prognostic factors in head and neck oncology was carried out.
Results: Prognostic factors were analysed and classified according to Wennenberg in the following groups: patient-related factors, tumour-related factors and factors predicting response to therapy.
Conclusions: We propose a classification of prognostic factors in head and neck cancer according to their significance and reliability: factors of proven significance and experimental factors. This classification might be useful to select guidelines to use in clinical practice.