Many studies have reported inverse associations between vegetable and fruit consumption and lung cancer risk. The aim of the present study was to elucidate the role of several antioxidants and folate in this relationship. In the Netherlands Cohort Study on Diet and Cancer, 58,279 men of ages 55-69 years at baseline in 1986 returned a questionnaire including a 150-item food frequency questionnaire. After 6.3 years of follow-up, 939 male lung cancer cases were registered. A new Dutch carotenoid database was used to estimate intake of alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein + zeaxanthin, beta-cryptoxanthin, and lycopene, completed with the antioxidant vitamins C and E and folate. Using case-cohort analysis, rate ratios were calculated, adjusted for age, smoking, educational level, and family history of lung cancer. Protective effects on lung cancer incidence were found for lutein + zeaxanthin, beta-cryptoxanthin, folate, and vitamin C. Other carotenoids (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and lycopene) and vitamin E did not show significant associations. After adjustment for vitamin C, only folate remained inversely associated, and after adjustment for folate, only beta-cryptoxanthin and vitamin C remained significantly associated. Inverse associations were strongest among current smokers and weaker for former smokers at baseline. Inverse associations with carotenes, lutein + zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin seemed to be limited to small cell and squamous cell carcinomas. Only folate and vitamin C intake appeared to be inversely related to small cell and squamous cell carcinomas and adenocarcinomas. Folate, vitamin C, and beta-cryptoxanthin might be better protective agents against lung cancer in smokers than alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein + zeaxanthin, and lycopene.