Cholesterol distribution in tumoral tissues and lipid composition in the plasma compartment were determined in patients affected by different histologic types of lung cancer. The results showed that tumoral lung tissues contained 2-fold more total cholesterol and 3.5-fold more esterified cholesterol than normal lung tissues. In the patients the alterations in intracellular cholesterol were also associated with peculiar changes in cholesterol distribution in the plasma compartment. Serum high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels were markedly lower in than in controls. No significant changes in other lipid parameters were observed in these patients. We suggest that the reduced levels of serum HDL cholesterol observed in patients with lung tumors may be a consequence of the disease, probably mediated by the greater utilization of cholesterol for new membrane biogenesis and by the accumulation of esterified cholesterol in tumoral tissues.