An endoscopic survey was undertaken in Jiaoxian, People's Republic of China, a population at low risk for oesophageal cancer, to determine the prevalence of precancerous lesions of the oesophagus, and this rate was compared with the prevalence observed previously in high-risk populations in Iran and Linxian, China. The study involved 252 subjects whose exposure to suspected risk factors was determined by a questionnaire and all of whom underwent physical examination and oesophagoscopy, including cytology and biopsy. Chronic oesophagitis, with endoscopic and histologic characteristics similar to those observed in the high-risk populations of Iran and Linxian, was found in 28% of the study subjects compared to 80% in Iran and 65% in Linxian. Oesophagitis accompanied by atrophy of the epithelium was found in 0.4% compared to 10.5% in Iran and 10.8% in Linxian. No case of dysplasia was diagnosed in Jiaoxian while this condition was diagnosed in 4% of the subjects examined in Iran and in 8% of those in Linxian. The findings suggest that these lesions are in fact precancerous. Vitamin analysis showed that riboflavin deficiency was widespread in Jiaoxian, as in Iran and Linxian, but was more severe in Linxian than in Jiaoxian. No significant difference was found in the mean levels of retinol, beta-carotene and zinc between the two populations.