The occurrence of head and neck cancer (HNC) is associated with smoking and alcohol drinking. Tobacco smoking exposes smokers to a series of carcinogenic chemicals. Cytochrome P450 enzymes ( CYP450s), such as CYP1A1, CYP1B1, and CYP2D6, usually metabolize carcinogens to their inactive derivatives, but they occasionally convert the chemicals to more potent carcinogens. In addition, via CYP450 ( CYP2E1) oxidase, alcohol is metabolized to acetaldehyde, a highly toxic compound, which plays an important role in carcinogenesis. Furthermore, two N-acetyltransferase isozymes ( NATs), NAT1 and NAT2, are polymorphic and catalyze both N-acetylation and O-acetylation of aromatic and heterocyclic amine carcinogens. Genetic polymorphisms are associated with a number of enzymes involved in the metabolism of carcinogens important in the induction of HNC. It has been suggested that such polymorphisms may be linked to cancer susceptibility. In this paper, we select four cytochrome P450 enzymes ( CYP1A1, CYP1BA1, CYP2D6, and CYP2E1), and two N-acetyltransferase isozymes ( NAT1 and NAT2) in order to summarize and analyze findings from the literature related to HNC risk by focusing on (i) the interaction between these genes and the environment, (ii) the impact of genetic defect on protein activity and/or expression, and (iii) the eventual involvement of race in such associations.