Soil samples were collected during certain years for the period 1982–89 from high-and low-risk areas for oesophageal cancer in Transkei, southern Africa. These samples were taken either from cultivated soils under maize monoculture, or from uncultivated soils (1989 only) adjacent to the maize fields. Analyses of mineral dements in the soil samples were performed at two independent laboratories. Furthermore, soil and maize leaf samples, from field trials in a high-and a low-risk area for oesophageal cancer were analysed. The results from this study do not agree with those reported previously for Transkei. Cultivated soils in both high-and low-risk areas were found to be highly fertile. The levels of Mn, Ni, Mg, Ca, K and soil pH were significantly higher, and Al, Fe and organic matter significantly lower in the high-risk compared with the low-risk area. Leaf analysis, although not tested statistically, indicated higher levels of Mn K, Ca and Fe, and lower levels of P, in the high-risk area.