Cancers of the upper aerodigestive tract (UADT) are common forms of malignancy associated with tobacco and alcohol exposures, although human papillomavirus and nutritional deficiency are also important risk factors. While somatically acquired DNA methylation changes have been associated with UADT cancers, what triggers these events and precise epigenetic targets are poorly understood. In this study, we applied quantitative profiling of DNA methylation states in a panel of cancer-associated genes to a case-control study of UADT cancers. Our analyses revealed a high frequency of aberrant hypermethylation of several genes, including MYOD1, CHRNA3 and MTHFR in UADT tumors, whereas CDKN2A was moderately hypermethylated. Among differentially methylated genes, we identified a new gene (the nicotinic acetycholine receptor gene) as target of aberrant hypermethylation in UADT cancers, suggesting that epigenetic deregulation of nicotinic acetycholine receptors in non-neuronal tissues may promote the development of UADT cancers. Importantly, we found that sex and age is strongly associated with the methylation states, whereas tobacco smoking and alcohol intake may also influence the methylation levels in specific genes. This study identifies aberrant DNA methylation patterns in UADT cancers and suggests a potential mechanism by which environmental factors may deregulate key cellular genes involved in tumor suppression and contribute to UADT cancers.