Background Membrane-bound complement restriction proteins (mCRPs) CD46, CD55 and CD59 enable tumour cells to evade complement dependent cytotoxicity and antibody-dependent killing mechanisms. But less is known about the role of these mCRPs in head and neck cancer. Methods In this study we determined the expression of the mCRPs on head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) cell lines, on tumour tissue and TDLNs (tumour-draining lymph nodes) as well as on lymphocytes from HNSCC patients. The influence of the HNSCC microenvironment on the mCRP regulation was analysed using Flow Cytometry, Western blotting and small interfering RNAs (siRNA) transfection studies. Results We examined the effects of the HNSCC tumour milieu on the expression levels of CD46, CD55 and CD59. We investigated the susceptibility of HNSCC cells to CDC (complement-dependent cytotoxicity) while silencing the mCRPs. Our results demonstrate a huge influence of the HNSCC tumour microenvironment on the regulation of mCRP expression and show a reciprocal regulation between the different mCRPs themselves. Conclusions In summary, our data indicate that HNSCC has evolved different strategies to evade complement attacks and that the tumour microenvironment leads to the enhancement of complement resistance of the surrounding tissue.