Focal non-epidermolytic palmoplantar keratoderma (PPK or palmoplantar ectodermal dysplasia type III) is associated with oesophageal cancer in three families: two large pedigrees located in Liverpool, UK and in the midwestern American states and one smaller family from Germany. In these families, the PPK is inherited as autosomal dominant and has a late onset, usually manifesting between 7 and 8 years of age. The disease is characterised by thickening of the pressure areas of the soles, but is not restricted to the feet and also presents with oral leukokeratosis and follicular hyperkeratosis. The disease locus [previously termed the 'tylosis oesophageal cancer gene' (TOC) locus] has been mapped to 17q23-qter by linkage analysis. This region is located telomeric to the keratin 16 gene, in which mutations have been identified in focal PPK families who show no increased cancer risk. We describe the close mapping of this locus to the interval between AFMb054zf9 and D17S1603 using haplotype analysis of additional Genethon markers in the region and show that although the American family is unlikely to be related to either of the other two, the UK and German pedigrees may share a common descent. This work provides a basis for positional cloning and candidate gene analysis in order to identify a gene that may be involved in familial oesophageal cancer.