We examined the relation between vitamin C intake and mortality in the First National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES I) Epidemiologic Follow-up Study cohort. This cohort is based on a representative sample of 11,348 noninstitutionalized U.S. adults age 25-74 years who were nutritionally examined during 1971-1974 and followed up for mortality (1,809 deaths) through 1984, a median of 10 years. An index of vitamin C intake has been formed from detailed dietary measurements and use of vitamin supplements. The relation of the standardized mortality ratio (SMR) for all causes of death to increasing vitamin C intake is strongly inverse for males and weakly inverse for females. Among those with the highest vitamin C intake, males have an SMR (95% confidence interval) of 0.65 (0.52-0.80) for all causes, 0.78 (0.50-1.17) for all cancers, and 0.58 (0.41-0.78) for all cardiovascular diseases; females have an SMR of 0.90 (0.74-1.09) for all causes, 0.86 (0.55-1.27) for all cancers, and 0.75 (0.55-0.99) for all cardiovascular diseases. Comparisons are made relative to all U.S. whites, for whom the SMR is defined to be 1.00. There is no clear relation for individual cancer sites, except possibly an inverse relation for esophagus and stomach cancer among males. The relation with all causes of death among males remains after adjustment for age, sex, and 10 potentially confounding variables (including cigarette smoking, education, race, and disease history).