A death certificate mortality odds ratio study of seven cancer sites was conducted by using 1979-1984 data on Illinois deaths in white and black males. Cancer sites selected include stomach, pancreas, lung, prostate, bladder, brain, and non-Hodgkin's lymphomas. This surveillance study was undertaken to detect occupational associations that might suggest further avenues of research. Some of the occupations and industries found to have elevated cancer risks and that are consistent with previous studies include: brickmasons and stonemasons (stomach); metal workers (pancreas, lung); photoengravers and lithographers (pancreas); butchers (lung); locomotive operators and truck drivers (lung); farmers (prostate, brain, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma); mechanics and repairers, especially auto mechanics (prostate); physicians (brain); glass products manufacturing workers (brain); and communications industry (brain) and chemical plant workers (non-Hodgkin's lymphomas). It was also noted that for black males, the death certificate occupational data are of limited usefulness due to the high percentage of missing or inexact information. The Division of Vital Records in the State of Illinois should make an effort to improve the reporting of this data through additional training of the funeral directors and hospital clerks who collect this information and by follow-up of incomplete or missing data.