Between 1949 and 1977, 74 patients with adenoid-cystic carcinoma of various head and neck sites were treated by radiation therapy at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Radiation therapy alone was employed in 49 patients for recurrent, unresectable disease, and in 25 patients it was given as an adjunct to surgical resection. Among the 49 patients treated with radiation therapy alone, tumor regression was seen in 47 (96%). However, 44 of the 47 (93.5%) subsequently relapsed locally. Relapse occurred within 18 months in one-half of the patients and within 5 years in all of them. Of the 25 patients who received adjunctive radiation therapy about one-half relapsed locally within five years. There were 9 patients in this group, however, whose field size exceeded 8 X 8 cm and the dose of radiation also exceeded 4500 rad: 88% of these patients remained relapse-free at 5 years, compared with only 22% of the other 16 whose dose, or field size, or both, were inadequate by comparison. These data suggest that when irradiation is employed for advanced, inoperable adenoid-cystic carcinoma, it offers useful palliation but is rarely, if ever, curative. Postoperative irradiation, on the other hand, might improve the local control and the survival in patients with operable adenoid-cystic carcinoma who are at high risk for relapse, but only if the field size and the dose are adequate.