Cooking oil fumes have been suggested to increase the risk of lung cancer in Chinese women by exposing them to mutagenic substances. We investigated the association between lung cancer and locally made rapeseed and linseed oils in a population-based case-control study in Gansu Province, China. Two hundred and thirty-three incident, female lung cancer cases diagnosed from 1994-98 were identified. A control group of 459 women was selected from census lists and were frequency matched on age and prefecture. Interviewers obtained information on cooking practices and cooking oil use. The odds ratio (OR) for lung cancer associated with ever-use of rapeseed oil, alone or in combination with linseed oil, was 1.67 (95% CI 1.0-2.5), compared to use of linseed oil alone. ORs for stir-frying with either linseed or rapeseed oil 15-29, 30 and > or =31 times per month were 1.96,1.73, and 2.24, respectively (trend, P=0.03), relative to a lower frequency of stir-frying. Lung cancer risks also increased with total number of years cooking (trend, P<0.09). Women exposed to cooking fumes from rapeseed oil appeared to be at increased risk of lung cancer, and there was some evidence that fumes from linseed oil may have also contributed to the risk.