Epidemiologic studies have suggested that aromatic amines (and nitroaromatic hydrocarbons) may be carcinogenic for human pancreas. Pancreatic tissues from 29 organ donors (13 smokers, 16 non-smokers) were examined for their ability to metabolize aromatic amines and other carcinogens. Microsomes showed no activity for cytochrome P450 (P450) 1A2-dependent N-oxidation of 4-aminobiphenyl (ABP) or for the following activities (and associated P450s): aminopyrine N-demethylation and ethylmorphine N-demethylation (P450 3A4); ethoxyresorufin O-deethylation (P450 1A1) and pentoxyresorufin O-dealkylation (P450 2B6); p-nitrophenol hydroxylation and N-nitrosodimethylamine N-demethylation (P450 2E1); lauric acid ω-hydroxylation (P450 4A1); and 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl-1-butanol) (NNAL) and 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK) α-oxidation (P450 1A2, 2A6, 2D6). Antibodies were used to examine microsomal levels of P450 1A2, 2A6, 2C8/9/18/19, 2E1, 2D6, and 3A3/4/5/7 and epoxide hydrolase. Immunoblots detected only epoxide hydrolase at low levels; P450 levels were < 1% of liver. Microsomal benzidine/prostaglandin hydroperoxidation activity was low. In pancreatic cytosols and microsomes, 4-nitrobiphenyl reductase activities were present at levels comparable to human liver. The O-acetyltransferase activity (AcCoA-dependent DNA-binding of [3H]N-hydroxy-ABP) of pancreatic cytosols was high, about two-thirds the levels measured in human colon. Cytosols showed high activity for N-acetylation of p-aminobenzoic acid, but not of sulfamethazine, indicating that acetyltransferase-1 (NAT1) is predominantly expressed in this tissue. Cytosolic sulfotransferase was detected at low levels. Using 32P-post-labeling enhanced by butanol extraction, putative arylamine-DNA adducts were detected in most samples. Moreover, in eight of 29 DNA samples, a major adduct was observed that was chromatographically identical to the predominant ABP-DNA adduct, N-(deoxyguanosin-8-yl)-ABP. These results are consistent with a hypothesis that aromatic amines and nitroaromatic hydrocarbons may be involved in the etiology of human pancreatic cancer.