Morbidity and mortality studies of fire fighters have produced varied and inconsistent findings regarding the potential chronic effects of fire fighting including respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. The mortality experience of 1,867 white male fire fighters who were employed for the City of Buffalo a minimum of five years with at least one year as a fire fighter was studied. Vital status was determined for 99% of the cohort, resulting in 470 observed deaths. The fire fighter cohort was characteristic of a healthy worker population. All-cause mortality was close to the expected standardized mortality ratio (SMR) = 95, and significantly lower than expected mortality was seen for all external causes (SMR = 67)--in particular, for suicide (SMR = 21) and respiratory diseases (SMR = 48). Significantly elevated SMRs were found for benign neoplasms (SMR = 417), cancer of the colon (SMR = 183), and cancer of the bladder (SMR = 286). Cause-specific mortality is presented by number of years employed, calendar year of death, year of hire, and latency. Cancer mortality was significantly higher in the long-term fire fighters, and risk of mortality from all malignant neoplasms tended to increase with increasing latency. Patterns in risk of mortality among fire fighters for cancers of the bladder, colon, and brain are intriguing. Additional follow-up of this cohort and initiation of cancer morbidity studies would be helpful in further clarifying the potential long-term effects of fire fighting on cancer risk.