We used data from a hospital-based case-control study of tobacco-related cancers to test the hypothesis that smoking mentholated cigarettes increases the risk of cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx, a cancer with a 50% higher incidence in black Americans compared with whites. Detailed information on smoking habits and other variables, obtained in personal interviews, was available for 194 male and 82 female newly diagnosed, histologically confirmed cases of oropharyngeal cancer and 845 male and 411 female controls, all of whom were current smokers. In univariate, stratified, and multivariable analyses involving all cases and controls, menthol was not a risk factor for cancer. The odds ratio, adjusted for covariates, for smoking mentholated cigarettes for > = 15 years relative to smoking nonmentholated cigarettes only was 0.9 (95% confidence interval = 0.5-1.6) in males, and 0.7 (95% confidence interval = 0.5-1.7) in females. In analyses by subsite, menthol use was positively associated only with cancer of the pharynx in males, although the magnitude of the association was small. These results indicate that use of mentholated cigarettes is unlikely to be an important independent factor in oropharyngeal cancer.