The purpose of this study was to evaluate the value of diffusion-weighted MRI (DW-MRI) in differentiating benign and malignant head and neck masses by comparing their apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) values. The study included 32 patients with a neck mass >1 cm in diameter who were examined with echo planar DW-MRI. Two different diffusion gradients (b values of b = 0 and b = 1000 s/mm(2)) were applied. DWI and ADC maps of 32 neck masses in 32 patients were obtained. Mean ADC values of benign and malignant neck lesions were measured and compared statistically. A total of 15 (46.9%) malignant masses and 17 (53.1%) benign masses were determined. Of all the neck masses, the ADC value of cystic masses was the highest and that of lymphomas was the lowest. The mean ADC values of benign and malignant neck masses were 1.57 x 10(-3) mm(2)/s and 0.90 x 10(-3) mm(2)/s, respectively. The difference between mean ADC values of benign and malignant neck masses was significant (p < 0.01). Diffusion-weighted MRI with ADC measurements can be useful in the differential diagnosis of neck masses.