The role of human papillomaviruses (HPV) in laryngeal squamous cell carcinoma has not yet been established. Thirty-three cases of laryngeal squamous cell carcinoma were analysed for the presence of HPV DNA and compared with 25 cases of normal larynx and 29 cases of laryngeal squamous papilloma in their positivity index. The presence of HPV DNA was analysed by using L1 consensus primers and also by primers specific for the E7 gene of HPV types 16 and 18. Four normal laryngeal samples (16%) were positive for HPV DNA against the 24 samples (82%) (p < 0.001) found for laryngeal papilloma and 16 (48.5%) (p < 0.05) found for laryngeal squamous cell carcinoma. HPV 16 was the type most frequently found in laryngeal carcinoma samples. Our results support an etiologic role for this type of HPV in the pathogenesis of laryngeal carcinoma.