Autofluorescence (AF) from bronchial tissue is increasingly used for the endoscopic detection of early bronchial neoplasia. Several imaging systems are commercially available, all detecting the absolute or relative AF intensity and/or spectral contrasts between normal tissue and early neoplastic lesions. These devices have a high sensitivity for flat neoplasia, but the specificity remains limited. Variations in the AF intensity between individuals (inter-patient variations) is considered one of the most limiting factors. In the clinical study presented here, we quantified those variations using a non-invasive optical reference positioned in situ during AF bronchoscopy. The inter-patient variations in intensity on the main carina were in the order of 25- 30%. The results of this study are quite useful for improving and defining the design of the optical features (dynamic range, physical sensitivity) of AF detection systems.