Evidence suggests that human papillomavirus (HPV)16 seropositivity reflects past HPV16 exposure and is associated with risk for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Our objectives were to test the hypothesis that HPV16 seropositivity is associated with risk for HNSCC, to correlate HPV16 seropositivity with HPV16 tumor DNA, and to correlate HPV16 seropositivity and HPV16 DNA with sexual history and patient survival. In a case–control study of approximately 1,000 individuals, we assessed serology to the HPV16 L1 protein and in cases only, assayed tumors for HPV16 DNA. HPV16 seropositivity was associated with 1.5- and 6-fold risks for tumors of the oral cavity and pharynx, respectively. There was a dose response trend for HPV16 titer and increasing risk of HNSCC (p < 0.0001) and HPV16 tumor DNA (p < 0.0001). In cases, HPV16 DNA and seropositivity were significantly associated with sexual activity; odds ratios (ORs) of 12.8 and 3.7 were observed for more than 10 oral sexual partners and ORs of 4.5 and 3.2 were associated with a high number of lifetime sexual partners, respectively. Finally, HPV16 seropositivity and HPV16 tumor DNA were associated with hazard ratios of 0.4 and 0.5, respectively, indicating better survival for HPV positive individuals. HPV16 seropositivity was associated with risk for HNSCC, with greatest risk for pharyngeal cancer. We observed dose response relationships between serology titer and both risk for HNSCC and HPV16 tumor DNA. In cases, HPV16 tumor DNA and positive serology were associated with sexual history and improved disease free survival. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.