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The vast majority of head and neck cancers (HNCs) are sporadic squamous cell carcinomas, smoking and heavy drinking being the main risk factors. However, little is known about the possible role of family history and the importance of inherited factors versus shared environment. We used Swedish population-based registries to study the family history of HNC. In order to estimate the risk for family members to get the same cancer, and the risk for cancer-specific death in patients with a family history of HNC compared with patients without a family history, multivariate Cox proportional hazards analyses were performed. A 1.43-fold increased risk for developing HNC in the first-degree relatives (FDRs) of HNC patients [hazard ratio (HR), 1.43; 95% CI, 1.28–1.61] was found, when compared with relatives of healthy controls. In spouses of patients with HNC, the risk for developing any HNC was moderately increased (HR, 1.25; 95% CI, 1.01–1.53), compared with spouses of healthy controls. In addition, a 1.34-fold increased risk for death of HNC was found in HNC patients with a family history of HNC (HR, 1.34; 95% CI, (1.03–1.73) compared with HNC patients without a family history. We found an increased risk for HNC in relatives and spouses of HNC patients, when compared with family members of healthy controls. This suggests that in addition to inherited factors, shared environmental factors have a significant role in the development of the cancer. Family history of HNC was associated with worse survival in a newly diagnosed HNC patient.