DNA adducts associated with tobacco smoking could provide a marker of biologically effective dose of tobacco carcinogens and improve individual cancer risk prediction. A significant number of clinical and epidemiologic studies have reported associations of increased DNA adduct levels with the occurrence of the prevalent tobacco related cancers including cancer of the lung, head and neck, and bladder. The inducibility of DNA adducts following in vitro treatments using blood lymphocytes also appears to be a risk factor in the development of lung and head and neck cancer. Corroborative evidence pointing to the importance of DNA adducts in tobacco carcinogenesis include numerous studies showing associations of tobacco smoke exposure with the induction of DNA adducts in humans in vivo. Further effort is necessary, however, to more fully characterize the dose-response relationship between smoking and DNA adducts in exposed target and surrogate tissues. The relationship between gene polymorphisms thought to modify tobacco-related cancer risk and DNA adduct levels is complex. Results of some DNA adduct studies (both in vitro and in vivo) appear inconsistent with the epidemiologic findings. This is evident for polymorphisms involving both carcinogen metabolism (e.g. GSTP1) and DNA repair (e.g. XRCC1). Molecular studies of human tumors suggest associations of p53 mutation with DNA adducts and have revealed correlations of DNA adduct levels with somatic alterations (e.g. 3p21 LOH) that are thought to occur at the very earliest stages of tobacco carcinogenesis. More research is needed to assess the relationship between endogenous sources of DNA adducts and tobacco smoke exposure and the relative oncogenic effects of chemically stable versus unstable DNA adducts. Many potentially fruitful new avenues of cancer research are emerging that integrate DNA adduct analyses with assessments of smoking, genetics, diet and ambient air quality. These investigations aim to understand the multifactorial nature of interindividual variability in response to tobacco carcinogens. As these trends continue a variety of innovative study designs and approaches will become important in human populations.