Epidemiologic studies have evaluated the potential association between coffee consumption and lung cancer risk. However, results were inconsistent. To clarify the role of coffee in lung cancer, we conducted a meta-analysis on this topic. We searched PubMed and EMBASE databases (from 1966 to January 2009) and the reference lists of retrieved articles. Study-specific risk estimates were pooled using random-effects model. Five prospective studies and 8 case-control studies involving 5347 lung cancer cases and 104,911 non-cases were included in this meta-analysis. The combined results indicated a significant positive association between highest coffee intake and lung cancer [relative risk (RR)=1.27, 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.04-1.54). Furthermore, an increase in coffee consumption of 2 cups/day was associated with a 14% increased risk of developing lung cancer (RR=1.14, 95% CI=1.04-1.26). In stratified analyses, the highest coffee consumption was significantly associated with increased risk of lung cancer in prospective studies, studies conducted in America and Japan, but borderline significantly associated with decreased risk of lung cancer in non-smokers. In addition, decaffeinated coffee drinking was associated with decreased lung cancer risk, although the number of studies on this topic was relative small. In conclusion, results from this meta-analysis indicate that high or an increased consumption of coffee may increase the risk of lung cancer. Because the residual confounding effects of smoking or other factors may still exist, these results should be interpreted with caution.