Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) accounts for 3% of adult deaths from cancer. The risk factors for its development are still under intense investigation. Although tobacco smoke is a risk factor, the data are inconsistent and the extent of the increased risk is unclear. Estimates from 19 case-control and 5 cohort studies were used. The case-control reports included 8,032 cases and 13,800 controls; the cohort estimates were based on 1,457,754 participants with 1,326 cases of RCC. The relative risk (RR) for RCC for ever smokers as compared to lifetime never smokers was 1.38 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.27-1.50). The RR for male smokers was 1.54 (95% CI = 1.42-1.68) and for female smokers was 1.22 (95% CI = 1.09-1.36). For men and women there was a strong dose-dependent increase in risk. Ever smoker men who had smoked 1-9, 10-20 or 21 or more cigarettes/day had a RR of 1.60 (95% CI = 1.21-2.12), 1.83 (95% CI = 1.30-2.57), or 2.03 (95% CI = 1.51-2.74), respectively. For women, the relative risks were 0.98 (95% CI = 0.71-1.35), 1.38 (95% CI = 0.90-2.11), or 1.58 (95% CI = 1.14-2.20), respectively. The advantages of smoking cessation were confirmed by a reduction in RR for those who had quit smoking for >10 years as compared to those who had quit for 1-10 years. Inhaled tobacco smoke is clearly implicated in the etiology of RCC, with a strong dose-dependent increase in risk associated with numbers of cigarettes smoked per day and a substantial reduction in risk for long-term former smokers.