The ecological approach is used to investigate dietary and smoking links to lymphoma. International mortality rate data for 1986 and 1994 by gender and age group are compared with national dietary supply values of various food components for up to 10 years prior to the mortality data as well as per capita cigarette consumption rates 5 and 15 years earlier. The non-fat portion of milk, 3-9 years prior to the 1986 mortality data and 4 years prior to the 1994 data, was found to have the highest association with lymphoma, with r as high as 0.89. The results imply that 70 percent of lymphoma mortality may be related to this dietary component. Cigarette smoking in 1980 was found to have a weaker association with 1994 lymphoma mortality rates, being most important for younger men and statistically insignificant for younger women. The non-fat milk result is consistent with both case-control studies and a Norwegian prospective study, and with the often-observed finding that abnormal calcium metabolism, hypercalciuria, and dysregulated calcitriol production are common in normocalcemic patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL). It is hypothesized that excess dietary calcium from milk is a significant risk factor for lymphoma.