Okinawa, a group of islands that lie between the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean, 2000 km south of the Japanese main islands, has a different profile of diseases, ethnicities, and cultures than does the rest of Japan. We examined an Ile462Val polymorphism (CYP1A1*2 allele) of cytochrome P450 IA1 in a hospital-based case-control study of lung cancer patients (247 cases and 185 controls) in Okinawa to ascertain the association of this variant with lung cancer. In addition, the distribution of this genotype was studied in populations from different areas of Japan, including Tokyo (n = 69) and Iwate (northern part of Japan; n = 81), as well as in a Chinese group from the Jiangsu province (n = 39) and in an Australian Caucasian group (n = 146). Genotype frequency in controls was not significantly different from area to area in Japan. In Okinawa, however, the genotype encoding Val/Val was associated with a significantly higher risk of lung cancer (odds ratio = 3.32, P = 0.013), especially of squamous cell carcinoma and small cell carcinoma (odds ratio = 4.85 and 9.35, respectively). The Val-encoding allele was less frequent in the Chinese population and was rare in Australian Caucasians. Thus, this study gives support to the value of the cytochrome P450 IA1 Ile462Val polymorphism as a practical high-risk marker of lung cancer in populations, especially those in southeast Asia, in which this variant is more common.