In order to examine the relationship between different types of meat and squamous cell cancer of the esophagus, a case-control study was carried out in Uruguay. Eighty-two cases and 248 hospitalized controls were frequency-matched on age, sex, residence and urban/rural status. All patients responded to a detailed questionnaire, which included a food-frequency form for 64 food items representative of the usual Uruguayan diet. Whereas increases in risk were observed for high intake of salted meat [odds ratio (OR) 2.5, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.1-5.4] and lamb (OR 2.1, 95% CI 1.1-4.2), beef from cow was inversely associated with the risk of esophageal cancer (OR 0.4, 95% CI 0.2-0.9). Also, polyunsaturated fat from meat was associated with an increased risk (OR 3.2, 95% CI 1.0-9.8). Finally, total meat intake was not associated with squamous cell cancer of the esophagus.