The optical parameters of a red blood cell suspended in the blood plasma and, namely, the scattering and absorption cross sections and the scattering phase function describing the small-angle distribution of the scattered light are calculated. Dependence of the optical parameters on all possible values of size, shapes, orientations, hemoglobin concentration, and oxygenation degree is considered. The data are calculated with the so-called straight-ray approximation. The accuracy of the approximation is estimated by comparison with the Mie theory. © 1998 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers.