Results are presented from a case-control study of 97 cases of pancreatic cancer nested in a cohort of workers from three automobile manufacturing plants. Risk was examined for lifetime exposure to straight, soluble, and synthetic metalworking fluids, as used in specific machining or grinding operations, as well as for constituents of the fluids. Pancreatic cancer was associated with exposure to synthetic fluids in grinding operations, with an odds ratio of 3.0 (95% CI: 1.2-7.5) among those with more than 1.4 mg/m3-years of exposure. We were unable to examine synthetic exposure in the absence of grinding because there was virtually no exposure to synthetics in machining operations in this study population. Although a disproportionately high percent of the cases were black, no black workers had any exposure to synthetic fluids, and no other measured exposure was found to be related to risk. Thus, the previously documented excess risk of pancreatic cancer among blacks in this cohort remains unexplained.