Excesses of digestive and respiratory cancers have been reported previously in association with exposure to machining fluids, agents in widespread use as coolants and lubricants in machining operations. Previous studies have had limited power to distinguish the effects of the different types of machining fluids in use. In a cohort of over 30,000 workers employed at two automotive plants in Michigan, mortality patterns were studied in relation to exposure to each of the three major fluid types--straight oils, soluble oils, and synthetic fluids. Standardized mortality ratios were estimated for subgroups of the cohort ever exposed to each of the three fluid types, and Poisson regression analyses were used to assess trends in risk with duration of exposure. The data suggest modest positive associations between exposure to straight oils and rectal, laryngeal, and prostatic cancer and a negative association between soluble and synthetic fluid exposure and lung cancer.