To evaluate the hypothesis of increased kidney cancer risk after exposure to hydrocarbons, especially those present in gasoline, we conducted a case-control study in a cohort of approximately 100,000 male refinery workers from five petroleum companies. A review of 18,323 death certificates identified 102 kidney cancer cases, to each of whom four controls were matched by refinery location and decade of birth. Work histories, containing an average of 15.7 job assignments per subject, were found for 98% of the cases and 94% of the controls. To each job, industrial hygienists assigned semiquantitative ratings for the intensity and frequency of exposures to three hydrocarbon categories:nonaromatic liquid gasoline distillates, aromatic hydrocarbons, and the more volatile hydrocarbons. Ratings of ''present'' or ''absent'' were assigned for seven additional exposures:higher boiling hydrocarbons, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, asbestos, chlorinated solvents, ionizing radiation, and lead. Each exposure had either no association or a weak association with kidney cancer. For the hydrocarbon category of principal a priori interest, the nonaromatic liquid gasoline distillates, the estimated relative risk (RR) for any exposure above refinery background was 1.0 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.5-1.9). Analyses of cumulative exposures and of exposures in varying time periods before kidney cancer occurrence also produced null or near-null results. In an analysis of the longest job held by each subject (average duration 9.2 years or 40% of the refinery work history), three groups appeared to be at increased risk:laborers (RR = 1.9, 95% CI 1.0-3.9); workers in receipt, storage, and movements (RR = 2.5 95% CI 0.9-6.6); and unit cleaners (RR = 2.3, 95% CI 0.5-9.9).