Bladder cancer is a common multifactorial disease and is known to be associated with occupational exposure to arylamines. Smoking is also a recognised contributory environmental cause. Occupational bladder cancer has previously been associated with slow acetylation by N-acetyltransferase (NAT) in humans in phenotyping studies, but more recently there has been some controversy regarding this issue. NAT is an enzymic activity involved in the metabolism of arylamines, and its 'classical' polymorphism is due to multiple alleles at the NAT2 locus. A genotyping approach has been used to investigate NAT2 type in a population of 189 Caucasian bladder cancer patients attending a clinic at a hospital in Birmingham. Genomic DNA was prepared from a blood sample donated by each of the patients and was used in the polymerase chain reaction with primers specific for all NAT2 alleles. Restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis was used to determine which alleles were present. Results have been compared to those from an age-matched non-malignant Caucasian control population (59 individuals) from the same region. Occupational and smoking history was determined by questionnaire and a significant excess of genotypic slow acetylators is found in those groups of bladder cancer patients exposed to arylamines as a result of their occupation or who are cigarette smokers. A higher proportion of slow acetylators is also found in those bladder cancer patients without identified exposure to arylamines when compared to the non-malignant controls. Slow NAT genotype is therefore a contributory risk factor in bladder carcinogenesis which acts through influencing individual response to environmental carcinogens.