Female residents of six counties in Washington and Utah in whom a diagnosis of ovarian cancer was made during 1975–79 were interviewed concerning prior use of oral contraceptives. Interviews with a random sample of women drawn from these same counties were obtained for comparison. A smaller proportion of women with epithelial ovarian tumors had taken oral contraceptives than had controls: the estimated risk of ovarian cancer in uses relative to that in non-users was 0.57 (p = 0.04). The magnitude of the decreased risk depended on the duration over which oral contraceptives had been taken, as the negative association was present only after 4 or more years of use. In many ways, the use of oral contraceptives mimics the physiologic effects of pregnancy. The results of the present investigation, when interpreted together with those from other epidemiologic studies and from experiments in animals, suggest that, like pregnancy, the use of oral contraceptives has a protective effect against the development of ovarian cancer.