Genetic polymorphism of CYP2E1 was investigated among 195 Swedish patients with lung cancer and 206 controls. Three different polymorphic sites were found, all in introns, using RFLP and the restriction enzymes DraI, RsaI and TaqI. The frequencies of the rare alleles were 0.08-0.18 and much lower than previously described among Japanese. No significant difference in distribution of the polymorphic alleles between controls and lung cancer patients was evident, in contrast to results of a previous Japanese study. However, examination of a polymorphic site in the 5'-flanking region, within a putative binding motif for the hepatic transcription factor HNF-1, revealed a significantly less frequent distribution of the mutated allele (c2) among the lung cancer patients as compared to controls. It is concluded that major interethnic differences exist in the genetic polymorphism of CYP2E1 and that people carrying the c2 allele might be at lower risk for developing lung cancer.