Although cigarette smoking is a clear risk factor for lung cancer, the other determinants of lung cancer risk among smokers are less clear. Tea and coffee contain catechins and flavonoids, which have been shown to exhibit anticarcinogenic properties. Conversely, caffeine may elevate cancer risk through a variety of mechanisms. The current study investigated the effects of regular consumption of black tea and coffee on lung cancer risk among 993 current and former smokers with primary incident lung cancer and 986 age-, sex-, and smoking-matched hospital controls with non-neoplastic conditions. Results indicated that lung cancer risk was not different for those with the highest black tea consumption (>or=2 cups/day) compared with nondrinkers of tea [adjusted odds ratio (aOR)=0.90; 95% confidence interval (CI)=0.66-1.24]. However, elevated lung cancer risk was observed for participants who consumed 2-3 cups of regular coffee daily (aOR=1.34; 95% CI=0.99-1.82) or >or=4 cups of regular coffee daily (aOR=1.51, 95% CI=1.11-2.05). In contrast, decaffeinated coffee drinking was associated with decreased lung cancer risk for both participants who consumed <or=1 cup/day (aOR=0.67; 95% CI=0.54-0.84) and those who consumed >or=2 cups/day (aOR=0.64; 95% CI=0.51-0.80). These results suggest that any chemoprotective effects of phytochemicals in coffee and tea may be overshadowed by the elevated risk associated with caffeine in these beverages.