The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), which has been established in order to investigate the relations between nutrition and cancer, was initiated in 1990 and involves 10 European countries with heterogeneous dietary patterns and differing cancer incidence rates. This manuscript presents the design, recruitment and baseline characteristics of the Prospect-EPIC cohort co-ordinated in Utrecht, The Netherlands. The cohort is based on volunteers recruited among women participating in a regional breast cancer screening program. It comprises of 17,357 subjects aged 50-69 years at enrolment from Utrecht and vicinity, who have consented to participate in the study and its follow-up. Each participant filled out a general questionnaire and a food frequency questionnaire. Participants were also physically examined and have donated a blood sample. Participation rate was 34.5%. Blood samples were donated by most participants (97.5%) and detailed informed consents were obtained from 87.4% of participants. Mean age at enrolment was 57 years. Anthropometric, lifestyle and morbidity characteristics of the cohort population did not differ largely from those of similar study populations in The Netherlands. Based on the Prospect-EPIC population, we intend to conduct prospective total cohort, nested case-control or case-cohort studies, in order to investigate relations between consumption of certain food groups or nutrients and chronic diseases, including hormone dependant cancers such as breast, colon, endometrial and ovary cancers.