A case-control study of lung cancer involving interviews with 965 female patients and 959 controls in Shenyang and Harbin, two industrial cities which have among the highest rates of lung cancer in China, revealed that cigarette smoking is the main causal factor and accounted for about 35% of the tumours among women. Although the amount smoked was low (the cases averaged eight cigarettes per day), the percentage of smokers among women over age 50 in these cities was nearly double the national average. Air pollution from coal burning stoves was implicated, as risks of lung cancer increased in proportion to years of exposure to 'Kang' and other heating devices indigenous to the region. In addition, the number of meals cooked by deep frying and the frequency of smokiness during cooking were associated with risk of lung cancer. More cases than controls reported workplace exposures to coal dust and to smoke from burning fuel. Elevated risks were observed for smelter workers and decreased risks for textile workers. Prior chronic bronchitis/emphysema, pneumonia, and recent tuberculosis contributed significantly to lung cancer risk, as did a history of tuberculosis and lung cancer in family members. Higher intake of carotene-rich vegetables was not protective against lung cancer in this population. The findings were qualitatively similar across the major cell types of lung cancer, except that the associations with smoking and previous lung diseases were stronger for squamous/oat cell cancers than for adenocarcinoma of the lung.