Epidemiologic studies revealed low mortality in hormone-dependent cancer in Japanese women and men consuming a traditional diet. We previously found that certain diphenolic food components, lignans and isoflavonoids, which are converted to biologically active hormone-like substances by intestinal microflora, may be cancer-protective agents. Therefore, we studied urinary excretion of these compounds (enterolactone, enterodiol, daidzein, equol, and O-desmethylangolensin) in 10 women and 9 men in a rural village south of Kyoto, Japan. The subjects consumed a typical low-fat diet with much rice and soy products, fish, and vegetables. An isotope-dilution gas chromatographic-mass spectrometric method was used for the assays. The urinary excretion of lignans was low but that of the isoflavonoids was very high. The excretion of isoflavonoids correlated with soybean-product intake. The low mortality in breast and prostate cancer of Japanese women and men, respectively, may be due to the high intake of soybean products.