The human microsomal epoxide hydrolase (EH) gene contains polymorphic alleles, which may be linked to increased risk for tobacco-related lung cancer. The purpose of this study is to screen new polymorphisms and determine whether these polymorphisms can be used to predict individual susceptibility to lung cancer. The polymerase chain reaction-single strand conformation polymorphism (PCR-SSCP) analysis was used to screen for polymorphisms in the coding region of the EH gene. Eleven polymorphisms, including previously reported polymorphisms, were identified and the prevalence of these variants was assessed in at least 50 healthy Caucasians and African-Americans. Among the 11 polymorphisms, the prevalence of the amino acid-changing EH polymorphisms in codons 43, 113 and 139 was examined in 182 Caucasian incident cases with primary lung cancer, as well as in 365 frequency-matched controls to examine the role of EH polymorphisms in lung cancer risk. A significant increase in lung cancer risk was observed for predicted high EH activity genotypes (odds ratio (OR) 2.3, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.2-4.3) as compared with low EH activity genotypes. This association was more pronounced among patients with lung adenocarcinoma (OR 4.7, 95% CI 1.7-13.1). These results suggest that the EH polymorphism plays an important role in lung cancer risk and is linked to tobacco smoke exposure.