A population-based case-control study was conducted to examine the relationship between certain medical conditions, the use of tobacco, alcohol and coffee, and the incidence of pancreatic cancer. Cases (N = 148) were married men ages 20 through 74 years diagnosed with pancreatic cancer from July 1982 through June 1986. Controls (N = 188) were identified by random digit dialing. Wives, responding as surrogates for both cases and controls, were interviewed by telephone and completed, alone, a food frequency questionnaire. The risk of pancreatic cancer was increased in individuals with a history of diabetes or pancreatitis, and decreased in those with a history of tonsillectomy. Individuals who had ever smoked cigarettes were at elevated risk of disease. This excess risk was confined to current smokers, in whom the odds ratio was 3.2 (95% CI 1.8-5.7); the risk among former smokers resembled that in those who had never smoked. There was no excess risk of pancreatic cancer among those who had ever used other forms of tobacco, including pipe tobacco, cigars and chewing tobacco. After adjustment for demographic and dietary characteristics, there was no association between pancreatic cancer risk and the intake of coffee, beer, red wine, hard liquor or all alcohol combined; a slight reduction in risk was seen among those consuming white wine daily.