BACKGROUND This study, a component of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Multicentric Study on Cancer Risk Among European Asphalt Workers, aimed at identifying major mortality risks among workers in Finnish road paving companies. METHODS The Finnish cohort was comprised of 9,643 men and women from six road paving companies. The mortality of men employed during at least one season (5,676) was followed up from 1964 until end of 1994; an average of 17 years. Standardized mortality ratios (SMR) and relative risks (RR), the latter based on multivariate Poisson regression models were estimated by occupational group and by various metrics of occupational exposures. RESULTS All-cause mortality was elevated (SMR 1.11, 95% confidence interval, CI 1.03-1.20), mainly due to excesses in accidents, poisonings, and violence (1.29; CI 1.12-1.49), and lung cancer (1.38; 1.03-1.81). Workers exposed to bitumen fumes had a slightly elevated mortality from lung cancer (1.16; 0.69-1.83). Multivariate Poisson regression models with 15-year lag period suggested trends by cumulative exposure to coal tar, organic vapors, silica dust, diesel exhaust, and bitumen fume. CONCLUSIONS The elevated mortality from external causes among Finnish building/ground construction workers was probably due to living conditions and related lifestyles. Some evidence was found for a risk of lung cancer due to occupational exposure, but the confirmation of these findings would require a longer follow-up and improved control for confounding.