Lung cancer mortality rates among United States and Japanese males were compared and related to smoking and dietary data. Mortality rates increased from 1950 to 1985 in both countries, but the absolute values are consistently lower in Japan (38.2 deaths/100,000 in 1985) than in the U.S. (72.2/100,000). The proportion of smokers is higher in Japan than in the U.S. since 1955. Japanese males start smoking considerably later than U.S. males, but smoke a higher quantity of cigarettes per day. Available information on inhalation practices and yield and type of cigarettes smoked showed no differences among the two countries large enough to account for the differences in mortality rates. Further data in this regard should be obtained. Dietary data show that fat consumption (as percentage of calories) is consistently higher in the U.S. than in Japan from 1950 (40% vs. 7.9%) through 1985 (43.5% vs. 24.5%). A linear relationship is observed between lung cancer mortality and fat intake. Our data support the hypothesis that dietary habits may modulate the carcinogenic effects of tobacco smoking.