BACKGROUND To investigate the association between lung cancer and occupational exposure to man-made vitreous fibers (MMVF), a pooled analysis of two case-control studies was conducted in the years 1988-1994. METHODS The case series consisted of 3498 males who were histologically or cytologically verified primary lung cancer cases. 3541 male population controls were drawn at random from the general population and matched to cases by sex, age, and place of residence. To examine the relationship between MMVF and lung cancer we asked all study subjects who worked for at least 6 months as construction and installation workers whether they ever installed or removed insulations and what kind of insulation material they used. RESULTS Some 304 (8.7%) cases and 170 (4.8%) controls reported to have insulated with glass wool or mineral wool mats. Coded as ever/never exposed, the odds ratio was 1.48 (95% CI: 1.17-1.88), adjusted for smoking and asbestos. To be sure to exclude any confounding effect of asbestos, we tried to identify those cases and controls who insulated with glass wool or mineral wool mats only and never reported any asbestos exposure. For this group we calculated an odds ratio of 1.56 (95% CI: 0.92-2.65), after adjustment for smoking. An elevated risk was also estimated on the basis of an expert rating which was done for a subgroup of cases and controls. Ever exposure to MMVF (but not to asbestos) in this subgroup yielded an odds ratio of 1.30 (95% CI: 0.82-2.07). CONCLUSIONS Our study provides some indication for an excess risk of man-made vitreous fibers. This result also persists after adjustment for smoking and asbestos.