To investigate the risk of lung cancer after exposure to welding fumes, hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)), and nickel, we analyzed 3,418 lung cancer cases and 3,488 controls among men from 2 German case-control studies (1988-1996). We developed a welding-process exposure matrix from measurements of these agents, and this was linked with welding histories from a job-specific questionnaire to calculate cumulative exposure variables. Logistic regression models were fitted to estimate odds ratios with confidence intervals conditional on study, and they adjusted for age, smoking, and working in other at-risk occupations. Additionally, we mutually adjusted for the other exposure variables under study. Overall, 800 cases and 645 controls ever worked as regular or occasional welders. Odds ratios for lung cancer with high exposure were 1.55 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.17, 2.05; median, 1.8 mg/m(3) x years) for welding fumes, 1.85 (95% CI: 1.35, 2.54; median, 1.4 mu g/m(3) x years) for Cr(VI), and 1.60 (95% CI: 1.21, 2.12; median, 9 mu g/m(3) x years) for nickel. Risk estimates increased with increasing cumulative exposure to welding fumes and with increasing exposure duration for Cr(VI) and nickel. Our results showed that welding fumes, Cr(VI), and nickel might contribute independently to the excess lung cancer risk associated with welding. However, quantitative exposure assessment remains challenging.