Background and purpose: This study investigated the prognostic role of tumor cell expression of erythropoietin (EPO) and its receptor (EPO-R) in patients with locally advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN) treated with surgery plus radiotherapy. Patients and methods: The impact of EPO, EPO-R, and 11 additional factors on locoregional control (LRC), metastases-free survival (MFS), and overall survival (OS) was retrospectively evaluated in 144 patients. Additional factors were age, gender, performance status, preradiotherapy (pre-RT) hemoglobin levels, tumor site, histologic grade, T category, N category, human papillomavirus (HPV) status, extent of resection, and chemotherapy. Univariate analyses were performed with the Kaplan-Meier method and the log-rank test, multivariate analyses with the Cox proportional hazard model. Results: On multivariate analysis, improved LRC was significantly associated with no EPO expression (risk ratio [RR] 3.72; 95 % confidence interval [CI] 1.35-15.42; p = 0.008), lower T category (RR 1.60; 95 %CI 1.14-2.32; p = 0.005), and oropharynx or larynx cancer (RR 1.23; 95 %CI 1.02-1.49; p = 0.033). Improved MFS was significantly associated with no EPO expression (RR 5.45; 95 %CI 1.13-97.81; p = 0.031), lower T category (RR 1.66; 95 %CI 1.11-2.65; p = 0.013), lower N category (RR 2.44; 95 %CI 1.04-6.66; p = 0.039), HPV positivity (RR 3.14; 95 %CI not available; p = 0.034), and oropharynx or larynx cancer (RR 1.28; 95 %CI 1.01-1.61; p = 0.041). Improved OS was significantly associated with no EPO expression (RR 4.77; 95 %CI 1.63-20.68; p = 0.003), no EPO-R expression (RR 2.36; 95 %CI 1.22-4.92; p = 0.010), lower T category (RR 1.44; 95 %CI 1.04-2.04; p = 0.027), oropharynx or larynx cancer (RR 1.30; 95 %CI 1.08-1.57; p = 0.007), and pre-RT hemoglobin ≥ 12 g/dl (RR 1.94; 95 %CI 1.03-3.65; p = 0.042). Conclusion: EPO expression of tumor cells was an independent prognostic factor for LRC, MFS, and OS. EPO-R expression was an independent prognostic factor for OS.