The majority of genes in the HLA region are directly or indirectly involved in immunological functions. They comprise HLA, HLA-related and non-HLA-related genes. Aberrant HLA expression patterns, including heterogeneous and negative HLA expression, are observed in specimens from head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). To explore the possible role of genes in the HLA region other than the classical HLA genes, susceptibility regions within the HLA region for HNSCC were defined in this study. Microsatellite analysis for 49 microsatellites dispersed throughout the HLA region, in combination with the DNA pooling approach of respectively one control DNA pool and three patient DNA pools, based upon the tumour location, offered an efficient method to define susceptibility regions. In the oral cavity three significant susceptibility regions were localized, one in the class I region (330 kb), and two in the class II region (170 and 210 kb). Eighteen genes from these regions were tested for their RNA expression in oral cavity tumour tissue and compared to expression in the surrounding healthy tissue. A significant increased MICA RNA expression in tumour tissues compared to healthy surrounding tissue and a significant decreased HSD17B8 RNA in tumour tissues compared to surrounding healthy tissue, particular in those tumours without lymph node metastasis, were observed. A trend for decreased RXRβ and NOTCH4 RNA expression was observed in tumour tissue. In addition to the classical HLA genes, other genes within the HLA region define susceptibility for oral squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck.