Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a risk factor for the development of benign and malignant mucosal head and neck lesions. P16(INK4A) is often used as a surrogate marker for HPV-infection, although there is still controversy with respect its reliability. Our aim was to determine if P16(INK4A) overexpression can accurately predict both high-risk and low-risk-HPV-presence in (pre)malignant and benign head and neck lesions. P16(INK4A) immunohistochemistry was performed on paraffin-embedded tissue sections of 162 oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas (OPSCC), 14 tonsillar and 23 laryngeal dysplasias, and 20 tonsillar and 27 laryngeal papillomas. PCR, enzyme-immunoassay and FISH analysis were used to assess HPV-presence and type. Of the 162 OPSCC and 14 tonsillar dysplasias, 51 (31%) and 10 (71%) were HPV16-positive, respectively. All tonsillar papillomas were HPV-negative and four laryngeal dysplasias and 26 laryngeal papillomas were positive for HPV6 or -11. P16(INK4A) immunohistochemistry revealed a strong nuclear and cytoplasmic staining in 50 out of 51 HPV16-positive and 5 out of 111 HPV-negative OPSCC (p<0.0001) and in all HPV16-positive tonsillar dysplasias, whereas highly variable staining patterns were detected in the papillomas and laryngeal dysplasias, irrespective of the HPV-status. In addition, the latter lesions generally showed a higher nuclear than cytoplasmic P16(INK4A) immunostaining intensity. In conclusion, our data show that strong nuclear and cytoplasmic p16INK4A overexpression is a reliable surrogate indicator for HPV16 in OPSCC and (adjacent) dysplasias. For HPV6 or -11-positive and HPV-negative benign and premalignant lesions of the tonsil and larynx, however, P16(INK4A) immunostaining is highly variable and cannot be recommended to predict HPV-presence.