Eighty-four healthy Chinese male control subjects derived from an occupation-based case-control study of bladder cancer were evaluated for hepatic N-acetyltransferase activity by dapsone and for NAT2 genotype using allele-specific amplification of peripheral leukocyte DNA by the polymerase chain reaction. Fifty-nine percent of the overall variation in acetylation activity was explained by genotype (p < 0.0001). The remaining variation in acetylation was not associated with dapsone N-hydroxylation activity, age, current smoking status, or weight in the study population, or within any genotype subgroup. Although acetylation activity in the homozygous mutant group did not overlap with the other genotype categories, there was moderate overlap in acetylation between the heterozygous mutant and wildtype groups, and substantial variation in acetylation within them. Considering all subjects with the identical NAT2 genotype as phenotypically similar and all subjects with differing NAT2 genotypes as phenotypically distinct may result in misclassification of metabolic risk factors in epidemiological investigations. As such, it would seem prudent, where possible, to collect both acetylation phenotype and NAT2 genotype data, since the advantages and limitations of these two sources of information complement, and serve to assess the accuracy of each other.