BACKGROUND: Lung cancer is frequently cited as an example of a disease caused solely by exposure to environmental caricinogens. However, there is a growing realization that the genetic constitution is also important in determining individual's susceptibility to lung cancer. This genetic susceptibility may result from functional polymorphims of the genes involved in carcinogen metabolism. In this study, the association between GSTM1 and CYP1A1 polymorphisms and the lung cancer risk in Korean males was investigated. MATERIALS AND METHOD: The study population consisted of 153 male lung cancer patients and 143 healthy male controls. The GSTM1 and CYP1A1 genotypes were determined by multiplex PCR and PCR-RELP analysis. RESULT: The were no significant differences in the frequency of the GSTM1 null genotype between the cases and the controls. When the cases were categorized by their histologic type, the frequency of the GSTM1 null genotype in the small cell carcinoma group was higher than those of the controls(67.2% vs 55.9%), but the difference was not statistically significant(OR=1.772 ; 95% CI=0.723-4.340). The distribution of the CYP1A1 MspI genotypes among the cases were similar to those among the controls. When the cases were grouped by their histologic type, the m1/m1, m1/m2, m2/m2 genotypes frequencies among the small cell carcinomas(23.0%, 38.5%, and 38.5%, respectively) were significantly different from those of the controls(36.4%, 46.2%, and 17.4%, respectively, p<0.05). When the m1/m1 genotype was used as a reference, the m1/m2 and m2/m2 genotypes were associated with an increased risk for small cell lung cancer(m1/m2 genotype : OR=1.337, 95% CI=0.453-3.947 ; m2/m2 genotype : OR=3.374, 95% CI=1.092-10.421). CONCLUSION: These results suggest that the GSTM1 and CYP1A1 genotypes may be a genetic determinant of the risk for lung cancer, particlulary small cell carcinoma. Further investigation is needed to confirm these results.