We analyzed specimens of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) from 110 patients for p53 gene mutations, and 92 of them for human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, in order to evaluate the prognostic significance of these factors by comparison with clinical follow-up data. Mutations within the exons 5 to 8 of the p53 gene were found in 48 tumors (44%). Sequencing revealed in most cases mis-sense mutations (16/21). Frequency of p53 gene mutations was not related to the tumor stage or the presence of lymph node metastases. Of the 46 tumors that were analyzed by immunohistochemistry. 26 stained positively (56%). The number of positively stained nuclei increased slightly with decreasing differentiation of the tumors, whereas no correlation was found between tumor stage and immunoreactivity. An infection with the high-risk HPV types 16 and 18 could be detected in 39/92 tumor specimens (42%.). Follow-up data were obtained from 99 patients within a range of 2 to 112 months. No dependence of overall survival on the presence of p53 gene mutations or HPV infection could be observed. The absence of statistically significant correlations between p53 gene mutation and progressive disease, however, does not deny its putative relevance in early phases of tumor development.