Epidemiological evidence on the relation between aromatic amines and cancer risk is reviewed. In particular, cancer risk in humans resulting from exposure to aromatic amines from occupational sources and tobacco smoking is assessed with reference to ecologic, cohort, and case-control studies. Seven arylamines have been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer: benzidine-based dyes and MOCA (4,4'-methylene bis 2-choloroaniline) were considered 'probably' carcinogenic, Group 2A, because of a high level of evidence in experimental animals; two occupational chemicals (2-naphthylamine and benzidine), one drug (Chlornaphazine), and two manufacturing processes (manufacture of auramine and magenta) were included in Group 1 on the basis of 'sufficient' evidence of carcinogenicity in humans. Occupational exposures to aromatic amines explain up to 25 percent of bladder cancers in some areas of Western countries; these estimates might be higher in limited areas of developing countries. Aromatic amines contaminate the ambient air as a component of environmental tobacco smoke. There is increasing evidence that the excess of bladder cancer in smokers is attributable to aromatic amines rather than to other contaminants of tobacco smoke such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). A modulating role in the risk of bladder cancer associated with exposure to aromatic amines is played by metabolic polymorphisms, such as the N-acetyltransferase genotype, raising important social and ethical issues. The consistent observation of a difference between men and women in bladder cancer risk, after allowing for known risk factors, suggests consideration of gender-related biological determinants for future investigation.