PD-L1 expression is critical in helping tumor cells evade the immune system. However, the level of PD-L1 expression in non-oropharyngeal head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (non-OPHNSCC) and its association with patient prognosis remains unclear. A retrospective clinicopathological analysis was performed on 106 patients with non-OPHNSCC diagnosed between 2007 and 2014. In the current study, tissue arrays from paraffin-embedded non-OPHNSCC samples obtained from patients were constructed, and PD-L1 and p16INK4Aexpression were determined using immunohistochemistry. Systemic inflammatory factors, including C-reactive protein, serum white blood cell, neutrophil, monocyte and lymphocyte counts were also analyzed. The current study demonstrated that PD-L1 was overexpressed in 32.1% (34/106) and p16INK4Ain 20.8% (22/106) of patients. The expression of PD-L1 was associated with p16INK4Aexpression (P<0.01) but was not associated with levels of systemic inflammatory factors. Tumor stage was determined to be a significant prognostic value (stage I/II vs. III/IV, P=0.03), however, PD-L1, p16INK4A or other clinicopathological factors were not. The current study identified an association between PD-L1 and p16INK4Aexpression in non-OPHNSCC. This may facilitate the development of anti-PD1/PDL1 therapies to treat patients with head and neck cancer.