The association between cancer incidence and the residence near polluting facilities in an industrial area nearby Taranto has been investigated. Age, sex and occupational exposure were controlled as confounding variables in a case-control study (658 cases, 2092 controls). High risks were evidenced close to the steel mill (OR: 3.54), coke plant (OR: 4.80), mineral deposit (OR: 3.33) and shipbuilding (OR: 4.29) for pleural neoplasm, and to the steel mill (OR: 1.65) and shipbuilding (OR: 1.79) for lung cancer. After adjustment for occupational exposure, increasing trends of risk were observed both for lung and bladder cancers. Cancer risks were evidenced near industrial sites and the introduction of "occupational exposure" as a confounder modified significantly the risks with respect to distance from the source of pollution, particularly for pleural, lung and bladder cancers.