Few studies of the occupational etiology of cancer have focused upon the risks that women experience in the workplace. In this case-referent study of 11 cancer sites (lung, colon, rectum, bladder, esophagus, liver, salivary gland, stomach, eye, melanoma of the skin, mesothelioma), 7686 women in the Detroit area were interviewed to obtain lifetime histories of employment, tobacco use, and adult health, as well as demographic information. The results provide both methodologic and substantive leads for future investigations of the association between women's employment and their risk of cancer. We found that 63% of respondents had a usual occupation of housewife. Methodologic issues are discussed about the implications of this finding for sample size and statistical analysis when conducting such studies. New observations that merit further investigation include an association between salivary gland cancer and employment in hairdressing shops, esophageal cancer and employment in restaurants, and bladder cancer and employment in computer manufacturing. Further research is needed to understand the occupational etiology of cancer among women; such studies must consider specific methodologic issues.