To investigate the role of occupation as a risk factor for hairy cell leukaemia a case-control study on 121 male, hairy cell leukaemia (HCL) patients, and 484 controls matched for age and sex, was conducted. We found significantly elevated risk for HCL among building painters (OR, 5.7; 95% CI, 1.6-20.8; based on six cases and four controls) and construction workers (OR, 3.3; CI, 1.2-9.2; based on seven cases and eight controls). Farming has been suggested as a risk factor in HCL. In this investigation farmers had an OR of 1.2 (CI, 0.6-2.3) and farm workers an OR of 1.5 (CI, 0.8-2.8). However, having ever worked in farming yielded an OR of 1.8 (CI, 1.1-2.9). Having grown up mainly in a rural area gave an OR of 1.4 (CI, 0.9-2.4). UV light has been suggested as a risk factor for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL). To evaluate the impact of UV exposure, classification of occupations as indoor, outdoor or mixed indoor/outdoor was made. Outdoor and mixed outdoor/indoor work yielded ORs of 2.3 (1.0-4.9) and 1.6 (1.0-2.5), respectively. When the effect of outdoor/indoor or mixed indoor/outdoor work was analysed using a scoring system the OR was 2.0 (CI, 0.9-4.4) for farmers compared with 0.8 (CI, 0.3-1.9) among non-farmers in the highest scoring group. There was no clear correlation between socioeconomic status as defined by the Swedish Socio-Economic Classification (SEI), and the risk of HCL. As many comparisons were made, the possibility of associations occurring by chance can not be excluded.