A case-control study investigating risk factors for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) was conducted in Hanoi, in the north of Vietnam, between 1989 and 1992. Male cases of HCC (152) diagnosed in 2 hospitals were included. Hospital controls (241) admitted mainly to abdominal surgery departments were frequency-matched to cases for sex, age, hospital and place of residence (Hanoi, province). Odds ratios adjusted for matching variables and other potential confounders were estimated using unconditional logistic regression, or exact non-parametric statistical inference when numbers were small. Positivity for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) was the main risk factor for HCC in this sample. Five subjects (3 cases, 2 controls) had been infected by hepatitis C virus (HCV), and none of them were carriers of HBsAg, giving an OR of 38 associated with HCV infection among HBsAg-negative subjects. Alcohol drinking was associated with HCC and interacted with HBsAg positivity. Agricultural use of organophosphorous pesticides (30 liters/year or more) and military service in the south of Vietnam for 10 years or more were also associated with an increased risk of HCC. This study confirms the major role played by HBV infection and its association with HCC in south-east Asia. It also suggests how other factors such as alcohol consumption or exposure to chemicals may interact with HBV infection.