A population-based case-control study was carried out among 981 men (479 black, 502 white) with pathologically confirmed prostate cancer and 1315 controls (594 black, 721 white). In-person interviews elicited information on sexual behaviour and other potential risk factors for prostate cancer. Blood was drawn for serologic studies in a subset of the cases (n = 276) and controls (n = 295). Prostate cancer risk was increased among men who reported a history of gonorrhoea or syphilis (odds ratio (OR) = 1.6; 95% confidence internal (CI) 1.2-2.1) or showed serological evidence of syphilis (MHA-TP) (OR = 1.8; 95% CI 1.0-3.5). Patterns of risk for gonorrhoea and syphilis were similar for blacks (OR = 1.7; 95% CI 1.2-2.2) and whites (OR = 1.6; 95% CI 0.8-3.2). Risks increased with increasing occurrences of gonorrhoea, rising to OR = 3.3 (95% CI 1.4-7.8) among subjects with three or more events (Ptrend = 0.0005). Frequent sexual encounters with prostitutes and failure to use condoms were also associated with increased risk. Syphilis, gonorrhoea, sex with prostitutes and unprotected sexual intercourse may be indicators of contact with a sexually transmissible factor that increases the risk of prostate cancer.