This case-control study evaluated the relationship between bladder cancer and occupational factors in an area of North-east Italy. The study included 273 bladder cancer cases and 573 controls identified through the services of local hospitals. Information on socio-demographic characteristics, past medical history, lifestyle factors, employment in certain industries and occupational exposures was obtained by interviewing study subjects. Elevated relative risks (RR), albeit not statistically significant, were found among males ever employed in the general chemical (RR = 2.8), dye (RR = 6.9) and painting (RR = 3.1) industries. When results related to the general chemical and specialty chemical industries were combined the RR was 3.1 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.2-8.5). The RR increased with increasing duration and decreasing age at starting and years since quitting employment. The risk was significantly decreased for subjects ever employed in agriculture (RR = 0.6 for males, 0.5 for females), livestock farming (RR = 0.5 for males, 0.4 for females) and furniture manufacturing (RR = 0.5 for males), whereas an elevated risk was found among white collar workers (RR and 95% CI: 1.5, 1.1-2.4 and 2.7, 1.1-6.6 for males and females, respectively). These results confirm a well-known risk among subjects employed in various sectors of the chemical industry, and indicate that bladder cancer is associated with urbanization indicators. Because lifestyle factors (i.e. smoking, coffee consumption, etc.) did not totally explain the results for white collar workers, it is possible that other still undefined aspects of the urban environment play a role in bladder carcinogenesis.