In order to examine the risks of cancer of the upper aerodigestive tract associated with food groups, a case-control study was conducted in Uruguay in the period January 1996-December 1997. All patients afflicted with cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx larynx, and esophagus, were included in the study. Cases were frequency matched with hospitalized patients on age, sex, residence, and urban/rural status. A strong association with red meat intake was observed (OR 2.4, 95% CI 1.2-4.8), whereas vegetables fruits and legumes were associated with an inverse association (OR for fruits 0.3, 95% CI 0.2-0.6). Salted meat, a possible source of nitrosamines, was associated with an increased risk of 60% for esophageal cancer. Possible mechanisms for these findings are discussed.