A case-control study on cancers of the oral cavity was conducted by utilising data from the population based cancer registry. Bangalore, India. Three hundred and forty-eight cases of cancers of the oral cavity (excluding base tongue) were age and sex matched with controls from the same residential area but with no evidence of cancer. The relative risk due to pan tobacco chewing was elevated in both males and females, being appreciably higher in the latter (relative risk 25.3%; 95% confidence interval 11.2-57.3). A statistically significant (linear test for trend P less than 0.001) dose response based on years, times per day and period of time chewed was seen. Any smoking (cigarette or bidi or both) had only slightly elevated risk of developing oral cancer, whereas a history of alcohol drinking or inhalation of snuff did not influence the risk. A new finding of our study was the markedly elevated risk of oral cancer in persons consuming ragi (Eleusine coracana, family graminae) in comparison to those not consuming ragi as staple cereal in their diet. There also appeared to be some interaction between ragi consumption and tobacco chewing with substantially higher relative risks in those who pursued both habits compared to those who gave a history of either.