267400 female textile workers in Shanghai, who were administered a questionnaire at enrollment into a randomised trial of breast self-examination between October 1989 and October 1991, were followed up until the middle of 2000. Based on the 655 women who developed colon cancer, rate ratios (RRs) were estimated and trends in risk assessed using Cox Proportional Hazards Models. Risk was increased in women who used oral contraceptives for over 3 years (RR=1.56, 95% Confidence Interval (CI) 1.01-2.40). A possible increase in risk was also observed in women who received progestational injections during pregnancy (RR=1.24, 95% CI 0.95-1.62), but not in relation to the use of injectable contraceptives. A possible reduction in risk was associated with tubal ligation (RR=0.86, 95% CI 0.71-1.03) and ever having had an induced abortion (RR=0.84, 95% CI 0.71-1.00). No trends in risk were observed in relation to the duration of hormonal contraceptive use or the number of induced abortions. Additional studies of the possible roles contraceptives may play in the aetiology of colon cancer in women at low risk of this disease are warranted.