The t(14;18) translocation is a common somatic mutation in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) that is associated with bcl-2 activation and inhibition of apoptosis. We hypothesized that some risk factors might act specifically along t(14;18)-dependent pathways, leading to stronger associations with t(14;18)-positive than t(14;18)-negative non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Archival biopsies from 182 non-Hodgkin's lymphoma cases included in a case-control study of men in Iowa and Minnesota (the Factors Affecting Rural Men, or FARM study) were assayed for t(14;18) using polymerase chain reaction amplification; 68 (37%) were t(14;18)-positive. We estimated adjusted odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for various agricultural risk factors and t(14;18)-positive and -negative cases of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, based on polytomous logistic regression models fit using the expectation-maximization (EM) algorithm. T(14;18)-positive non-Hodgkin's lymphoma was associated with farming (OR 1.4, 95% CI = 0.9-2.3), dieldrin (OR 3.7, 95% CI = 1.9-7.0), toxaphene (OR 3.0, 95% CI = 1.5-6.1), lindane (OR 2.3, 95% CI = 1.3-3.9), atrazine (OR 1.7, 95% CI = 1.0-2.8), and fungicides (OR 1.8, 95% CI = 0.9-3.6), in marked contrast to null or negative associations for the same self-reported exposures and t(14;18)-negative non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Causal relations between agricultural exposures and t(14;18)-positive non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are plausible, but associations should be confirmed in a larger study. Results suggest that non-Hodgkin's lymphoma classification based on the t(14;18) translocation is of value in etiologic research.