Tumours of head and neck belong to the most frequent types of cancer world-wide. In Poland, mortality from larynx cancer among males has been continuously increasing during the last decades up to 8.4 deaths per 100,000 men in 1993, which exceeds epidemiological records from other countries. The aetiology of laryngeal cancer is strongly associated with exposure to carcinogens present in tobacco smoke. The review describes a sequence of molecular and cellular events from carcinogenic exposure, DNA adduct formation, detection of mutations in the p53 gene, loss of heterozygosity (LOH) in chromosomal loci encoding the p53 and p16 genes, and loss of control of the cell cycle. The section concerning DNA adducts includes a discussion of the role of such confounders as exogenous exposure, the age and sex of the subject, and disease progression. The significance of genetic factors as individual risk determinants is discussed in relation to bleomycin-induced chromosome instability and in connection with the occurrence of defects in genes encoding detoxifying enzymes. The question concerning the substantial difference between men and women in larynx cancer morbidity and mortality remains open, even when the significantly higher adduct formation in male DNA compared with female material was taken into account. Preliminary experiments suggest a role of the frequently observed loss of the Y-chromosome.