1. Race-related differences in the frequency distribution of genetic polymorphisms in the CYP1A1 and CYP1B1 genes were studied in 39 Japanese and 45 Caucasians. 2. Four types of CYP1A1 polymorphism, namely m1 (a nucleotide change at T6235C in the 3'-flanking region), m2 (A4889G at exon 7), m3 (T5639C in the 3'-flanking region) and m4 (C4887A at exon 7), and three types of CYP1B1 genetic polymorphism, namely m1 (C488G and G701T leading to Arg48Gly and Ala119Ser exchanges respectively), m2 (C1294G leading to a Leu432Val exchange) and m3 (A1358G leading to an Asn453Ser exchange) were studied. 3. The distribution of the m1-, m2-, m3-, and m4-types of CYP1A1 polymorphism in the Japanese population was 30.8, 17.9, 0 and 0% respectively; those in Caucasians were 3.3, 6.7, 0 and 2.2% respectively. Two types (m1, and m2) of CYP1B1 polymorphism were expressed at 14.1 and 21.8% respectively in the Japanese, and by 28.9 and 37.5% respectively in the Caucasian. Ethnic differences were also noted in the m3-type CYP1B1 polymorphism in which the incidence in Caucasians was 23.9%, whereas no cases in the 39 Japanese subjects were observed. 4. No apparent association was found in the incidence in each of the genetic polymorphisms of CYP1A1 and CYP1B1 genes, nor in methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase gene, except that the occurrence of the m2-type of CYP1A1 genetic polymorphism was related to that of the m1-type CYP1A1 polymorphism in the Japanese population. 5. These results suggest that there are race-related differences in the occurrence of genetic polymorphisms in both CYP1A1 and CYP1B1 genes in Japanese and Caucasian populations and that these differences in P450 genetic polymorphisms may, in part, cause differences in the occurrence of lung and breast cancers in these ethnic groups.