Background: Head and neck cancers [HNCs] are biologically heterogeneous tumours. The objectives of this study were to describe trends in incidence of HNCs amongst London residents by sex, age, anatomical site, deprivation and ethnicity. Methods: Annual age-standardised incidence rates [ASRs] were calculated on HNC registration data, overall and for specific cancer sites, by sex and morphology (1985–2010) and area-based socio-economic deprivation score (2006–2010). Age-standardised incidence rate ratios [IRRs] for the main ethnic groups were calculated by cancer site, using White males and females as the reference groups (1998–2009). Results: The ASR of HNC in males increased by 40% from 17.3 [95% CI: 15.8–18.6] to 24.2 [95% CI: 22.5–25.8] per 100 000 and in females by 87% from 7.0 [95% CI: 6.2–7.8] to 13.1 [95% CI: 11.9–14.2] per 100 000. Seventy-three per cent of cases spanned four cancer sites: larynx, thyroid, oral and oropharynx. Larynx was most common (23%), and had the highest male: female ratio (6 : 1); ASRs decreased significantly over time, most notably in males [P < 0.001]. Oral cavity was the second most common (21%), with a male: female ratio of 2 : 1, and increasing ASRs in both sexes [P < 0.001]. The majority of cases were male (64%) and from deprived areas (59%). Deprivation was associated with a significantly higher incidence for larynx (males), oropharynx (males and females) and oral cavity (females) [P < 0.05]. The age-specific rate for middle-aged adults (45–64 years) was high for oropharyngeal cancer. The incidence of thyroid cancers increased significantly in both sexes [P < 0.001], and this was the only site more common in females. One in five cases with known ethnicity was from a non-White group (20%). Compared with their White counterparts, Bangladeshi females had a higher incidence of oral, laryngeal and thyroid cancers; Chinese males and females had a higher incidence of nasopharyngeal cancer; and Pakistani and Indian females and Indian males also had higher incidence of oral cancer. Conclusions: HNCs are increasing in London males and females with significant variation by cancer site over time; oral and oropharyngeal cancers show the most significant rise, with implications for public health action and service provision.