An exploratory case-control study to detect risk factors for pancreatic cancer was conducted within a large cohort of people who had received multiphasic health checkups in the San Francisco Bay Area. Four hundred and fifty who later developed pancreatic cancer were compared with 2687 who did not with respect to 779 characteristics recorded at the checkups. There was strong confirmation that cigarette smoking and diabetes mellitus were associated with risk of subsequent pancreatic cancer. Higher levels of serum iron, iron saturation and body weight were also predictive. Less striking associations of interest were with the leukocyte count, pulse rate and certain questionnaire items suggesting non-specific health impairment. Past concerns about alcohol and coffee consumption were not confirmed.