The role of family history of lung cancer in predicting lung cancer risk among nonsmokers and their relatives was evaluated in a population-based family study conducted in metropolitan Detroit. Lung cancer risk factor data were collected through telephone interviews with 257 nonsmoking lung cancer cases 40-84 years of age diagnosed between 1984 and 1987, their 2,252 relatives, 277 nonsmoking controls, and their 2,408 relatives. Lung cancer in a first-degree relative was associated with a 7.2-fold (95% confidence interval 1.3-39.7) increased risk of lung cancer among nonsmokers in the 40- to 59-year-old age group. This significant increased risk remained after adjustment for the smoking, occupational, and medical history of each family member (relative risk = 6.1, 95% confidence interval 1.1-33.4). Offspring of nonsmoking cases comprised another lung cancer high risk group (relative risk = 7.2, 95% confidence interval 0.5-103). A positive family history did not increase lung cancer risk among nonsmokers 60-84 years of age or their relatives. These findings suggest that susceptibility to lung cancer in families of nonsmoking cases may be evident only in a subset of relatives of early-onset nonsmoking cases.