This review first considered some general problems in establishing causal links between a virus and a human cancer and offered some guidelines in the pursuit of this objective. Second, it reviewed the current causal associations for several candidate oncogenic viruses in relation to the tumors with which they are associated. These include Epstein-Barr virus in relation to Burkitt's lymphoma, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, Hodgkin's disease, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma; hepatitis B and C viruses in relation to hepatocellular carcinoma; human T-cell leukemia/lymphoma virus type 1 and atypical leukemia/lymphoma; and human papilloma viruses in relation to cervical carcinoma. For some, the causal relationship is strong: hepatitis B virus with hepatocellular carcinoma, and human T-cell leukemia/lymphoma virus with adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma. For one, the causal relationship is moderate: Epstein-Barr virus with African Burkitt's lymphoma. For others it is incomplete or inconclusive: Epstein-Barr virus with Hodgkin's disease and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and hepatitis C virus with hepatocellular carcinoma. Current techniques do not permit an answer for some: human papilloma virus with cervical carcinoma.