Both experimental and epidemiologic studies have linked a low dietary intake of selenium with an increased risk of cancer. The authors examined the association between plasma selenium levels and risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) among chronic carriers of hepatitis B and/or C virus in a cohort of 7,342 men in Taiwan who were recruited by personal interview and blood draw during 1988-1992. After these men were followed up for an average of 5.3 years, selenium levels in the stored plasma were measured by using hydride atomic absorption spectrometry for 69 incident HCC cases who were positive for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and/or antibodies against hepatitis C virus (mostly HBsAg positive) and 139 matched, healthy controls who were HBsAg positive. Mean selenium levels were significantly lower in the HCC cases than in the HBsAg-positive controls (p = 0.01). Adjusted odds ratios of HCC for subjects in increasing quintiles of plasma selenium were 1.00, 0.52, 0.32, 0.19, and 0.62, respectively. The inverse association between plasma selenium levels and HCC was most striking among cigarette smokers and among subjects with low plasma levels of retinol or various carotenoids. There was no clear evidence for an interaction between selenium and alpha-tocopherol in relation to HCC risk.