Phenacetin-based analgesics have been linked to the development of renal pelvis cancer and renal cell carcinoma (RCC). The relationship between non-phenacetin types of analgesics and kidney cancer is less clear, although laboratory evidence suggests that these drugs possess carcinogenic potential. A population-based case-control study involving 1204 non-Asian RCC patients aged 25-74 and an equal number of sex-, age- and race-matched neighbourhood controls was conducted in Los Angeles, California, to investigate the relationship between sustained use of analgesics and risk of RCC according to major formulation categories. Detailed information on medical and medication histories, and other lifestyle factors was collected through in-person interviews. Regular use of analgesics was a significant risk factor for RCC in both men and women (odds ratio (OR) = 1.6, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.4-1.9 for both sexes combined). Risks were elevated across all four major classes of analgesics (aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents other than aspirin, acetaminophen and phenacetin). Within each class of analgesics, there was statistically significant increasing risk with increasing level of exposure. Although there was some minor variability by major class of formulation, in general individuals in the highest exposure categories exhibited approximately 2.5-fold increase in risk relative to non- or irregular users of analgesics. Subjects who took one regular-strength (i.e. 325 mg) aspirin a day or less for cardiovascular disease prevention were not at an increased risk of RCC (OR = 0.9, 95% CI = 0.6-1.4).