The role of human papillomavirus (HPV) in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) development has been recognized only in the last decade. Although younger patients develop HNSCC associated with HPV, the incidence in young patients has not been studied. Forty-five young HNSCC patients (<40 years) were tested for HPV and the expression of p16 ink4a and p53 in tumor biopsies. The presence of HPV was correlated with the absence and presence of alcohol and tobacco exposure. Paraffin-embedded, archival biopsy materials from HNSCC of 45 patients younger than 40 years were analyzed. HPV subtypes were identified by PCR followed by genotyping. Expression of p16 ink4a and p53 were determined by immunohistochemistry. Fourteen (31%) of the HNSCC specimens from 45 patients unequivocally exhibited HPV16 positivity. Sixty percentage of the oropharyngeal tumors and 5% of the oral cavity tumors were HPV16 positive. P16 ink4a overexpression was detected in 93% of the HPV16-positive tumors. None of the HPV16 tumors showed p53 overexpression. There was no association of HPV positivity with (lack of) exposure to alcohol and smoking. HPV association was not exclusively detected in nonsmoking, nondrinking young HNSCC patients. The presence of p16 ink4a accumulation and the absence of p53 overexpression are good surrogate markers for HPV-associated HNSCC.