Antioxidant vitamins (provitamins) may protect against loss of lung function over time. We studied the association between serum carotenoids (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lycopene, beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, and lutein), alpha-tocopherol, and lung function among noninstitutionalized Dutch elderly age 65 to 85 yr (n = 528). Multiple linear regression analysis was performed with FEV(1) or FVC as dependent variables and serum levels of antioxidants in quintiles as independent variables. We adjusted for age, gender, height, and pack-years of smoking. Subjects in the fifth quintile of serum beta-carotene had a 195 ml (95% confidence interval [95% CI]: 40 to 351 ml) higher and those in the fifth quintile of alpha-carotene had a 257 ml (95% CI: 99 to 414 ml) higher FEV(1) compared with subjects in the first quintile of these carotenoids. Significant (p < 0.05) positive trends were observed between alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lycopene, and FEV(1) and between alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and FVC. Subjects in the highest quintile of the other carotenoids or alpha-tocopherol did not have significantly higher FEV(1) or FVC compared with subjects in the first quintile of these antioxidants. In conclusion, this study shows that from the six major serum carotenoids and alpha-tocopherol studied, particularly alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and lycopene were positively associated with lung function in the elderly and may be considered as candidates for further investigations.