A number of medical conditions have been linked with renal-cell cancer, although the evidence is not consistent in every case. In a large international case-control study of renal-cell cancer, we examined, among other hypotheses, associations with a personal history of certain medical conditions and a family history of cancer of the kidney or thyroid. Relative risks (RR), adjusted for the effects of age, gender, body-mass index, tobacco smoking and study centre, were significantly increased by a history of kidney stones or thyroid or kidney disease. The RR were not altered by additional adjustment for hypertension, or when diagnoses were restricted to those made at least 5 or 10 years before 1987 (the usual "cut-off" date). The link with kidney injury is particularly likely to be affected by recall bias. Increased RR of borderline significance were found for kidney infection (RR, 1.2) and diabetes (RR, 1.4). Having one first-degree relative with kidney cancer was associated with a significantly increased risk of renal-cell cancer (RR, 1.6; 95% Cl, 1.1-2.4). Seven cases reported 2 first-degree relatives with kidney cancer. No controls had first-degree relatives with kidney cancer. None of our participants reported having von Hippel-Lindau disease. The data suggests that a few conditions of the kidney are strongly associated with renal-cell cancer and that heredity plays a role in a small proportion of cases.