Aim of this case-control study, performed on 412 male bladder cancer cases and 414 controls with benign prostatic hyperplasia in a former area of coal, iron and steel industries in Germany, was to identify occupations with an increased bladder cancer risk. In bladder cancer cases, smokers were overrepresented (58.3%) compared to controls (35.2%). The percentage of patients who had stopped smoking for at least 10 years did not differ in cases (10.2%) and controls (9.7%). Significantly elevated smoking-adjusted bladder cancer odds ratios (MH) were observed in painters and lacquers (MH 2.24, 95% CI 1.07-5.13), chemistry-related occupations (MH 2.44, 95% CI 1.05-5.67), coke plant workers (MH 2.89, 95% CI 1.16-7.16) and hard coal miners (MH 2.33, 95% CI 1.52-3.58). Significantly decreased smoking-adjusted bladder cancer odds ratios (MH) were observed in businessmen (MH 0.64, 95% CI 0.45-0.92) and office personnel (MH 0.58, 95% CI 0.41-0.81). In these two groups a relevant exposure to occupational bladder carcinogens is not likely.