A retrospective cohort mortality study was conducted on 807 fur dyers, fur dressers (tanners), and fur service workers who were pensioned between 1952 and 1977 by the Fur, Leather and Machine Workers Union of New York City. Workplace exposures of fur workers varied with job category. Dyers were exposed to oxidative dyes used in commercial hair dyes; dressers and service workers were exposed to tanning chemicals. In a comparison with the New York City population, no significant increases in mortality were observed among the fur dyers. Among fur dressers, mortality from all malignant neoplasms [standardized mortality ratio (SMR) 151] and lung cancer (SMR 232) was significantly elevated, as was mortality from cardiovascular disease (SMR 126) among fur service workers. When examined by ethnic origin, the elevated SMR values and directly age-adjusted rate ratios suggested that foreign-born fur dressers and eastern European-born fur workers experienced the highest risks for lung and colorectal cancers, respectively. These data support previous findings of increased mortality from colorectal cancer in the foreign-born population of the United States and suggest a possible occupational etiology for the observed lung cancer excess.