Cigarette smoking is the strongest risk factor for lung cancer, but genetically determined variations in the activities of pulmonary enzyme that metabolize tobacco-derived carcinogens may affect individual risk. To investigate whether these enzymes (e.g., CYP1A-related) can serve as markers for carcinogen-DNA damage, lung tissue specimens were taken during surgery from middle-aged men with either lung cancer or non-neoplastic lung disease. Phase I [aryl hydrocarbon hydroxylase (AHH), ethoxycoumarin O-deethylase (ECOD)] and phase II (epoxide hydrolase, UDP-glucuronosyltransferase, glutathione S-transferase) enzyme activities, glutathione and malondialdehyde contents were determined in lung parenchyma and/or bronchial tissues; some samples were also analyzed for DNA adducts, using 32P-postlabeling. The data were then analyzed for the following: a) differences in metabolic profiles between bronchial and parenchymal lung tissue; b) the effect of recent exposure to tobacco smoke on enzyme inducibility and benzo[a]pyrene metabolism; c) differences in enzyme inducibility between lung cancer and non-lung cancer patients; d) the effect of smoking on metabolism of mutagens in vitro; e) pulmonary DNA adduct levels and AHH activity in lung parenchyma of smokers and ex-smokers; f) lipid peroxidation products in lung tissue from lung cancer and non-lung cancer patients, as related to smoking habits and degree of airway obstruction; and g) prognostic value of AHH pulmonary activity in lung cancer patients. The results demonstrate a pronounced effect of tobacco smoke on pulmonary metabolism of xenobiotics and prooxidant state and suggest the existence of a metabolic phenotype at higher risk for tobacco-associated lung cancer.