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From 1950 to 1977 the age-adjusted cancer death rates for nonwhite men in the United States rose an astonishing 63.2 percent, while rates for white men increased 22.2 percent and fell slightly for women of both races. The bulk of this increase can be accounted for by cancer of the lung. As a serious health problem that is increasing in severity, cancer in black men deserves close attention and definitive action. This discussion focuses on basic epidemiological relationships in the origins of this epidemic, particularly in regard to the relative importance of occupation, cigarette smoking, and social class.