Polymorphisms in many xenobiotic metabolizing enzymes occur leading to variation in the level of enzyme expression in vivo. Enzymes showing such polymorphisms include the cytochrome P450 enzymes CYP1A1, CYP1A2, CYP2A6, CYP2D6, and CYP2E1 and the phase two metabolism enzymes glutathione S-transferase MI (GSTMI) and arylamine N-acetyltransferase 2 (NAT2). In the past, these polymorphisms have been studied by phenotyping using in vivo administration of probe drugs. However, the mutations which give rise to several of these polymorphisms have now been identified and genotyping assays for polymorphisms in CYP1A1, CYP2A6, CYP2D6, CYP2E1, GSTMI, and NAT2 have been developed. Specific phenotypes for several of the polymorphic enzymes have been associated with increased susceptibility to malignancy, particularly lung and bladder cancer, and Parkinson's disease. These associations are likely to be due to altered activation or detoxication of chemicals initiating these diseases, including components of tobacco smoke and neurotoxins. The substrate specificity and tissue distribution of polymorphic enzymes implicated in disease causation discussed with particular reference to previously described disease-phenotype associations.