We conducted a case-control study to assess the risk of lung cancer in relation to genetic polymorphisms of the detoxifying enzymes glutathione-S-transferase mu1 (GSTM1) and N-acetyl transferase 2 (NAT2), focusing on never-smokers, women, and older people. The study base consisted of persons > or =30 years of age in Stockholm County from 1992 to 1995. We recruited never-smoking lung cancer cases and a sex- and age-matched sample of ever-smoking cases at the three county hospitals mainly responsible for diagnosing and treating lung cancer. A total of 185 cases (25.4% men; 47.6% never-smokers) and 164 frequency-matched population controls (28.7% men; 48.2% never-smokers) supplied blood for genotyping. Detailed information was collected by interview on active and passive smoking, occupations, residences, and diet. The overall odds ratio (OR) for lung cancer associated with the GSTM1 null (GSTM1-) versus GSTM1+ genotype was 0.8 [95% confidence interval (CI), 0.5-1.2], with an OR close to unity among smokers, and lower ORs suggested among never-smokers. For NAT2 slow versus rapid acetylator genotypes, the OR was 1.0 (95% CI, 0.6-1.5) overall, which broke down into an increased risk for slow acetylators among never-smokers but an increased risk for rapid acetylators among smokers. Among never-smokers, a gene interaction was suggested, with combined slow acetylator and GSTM1+ genotype conferring particularly high risk (OR = 3.1; 95% CI, 1.1-8.6), but no clear pattern emerged among smokers. A detailed analysis among smokers showed no interaction between pack-years of smoking and the GSTM1 genotype but suggested a steeper increase in risk with increasing pack-years of smoking exposure for rapid than for slow acetylators. Our results do not support a major role for the GSTM1 genetic polymorphism as a risk factor for lung cancer among smokers or nonsmokers. There was, however, some suggestion that the slow acetylator genotype may confer an increased risk among never-smokers and that the rapid acetylator genotype interacts with pack-year dose to produce a steeper risk gradient among smokers.