The relation between dietary indicators and the risk of cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx was investigated in a case-control study conducted in Pordenone province, north-east Italy, on 302 cases (266 males and 36 females) and 699 controls admitted to hospital for acute, non-neoplastic and non-digestive disorders. Positive associations were observed, after allowing for occupation, smoking and drinking habits, with more frequent consumption of pasta or rice, polenta, cheese, eggs and pulses (odds ratios - Ors = 1.6, 2.1, 1.9, 1.9 and 2.0 for highest vs. lowest tertile), whereas reduced ORs emerged in subjects reporting more frequent consumption of carrots, fresh tomatoes and green peppers (ORs = 0.6, 0.5 and 0.5, respectively). Higher frequency of daily meals was also associated with a significantly elevated OR (1.7 for ≥ 4 vs. ≤ 2 meals). The role of various indicator foods must be assessed in the context of the very high levels of alcohol consumption in the study area (≥ 8 alcoholic drinks/day in 2/3 cancer cases).