Although an inverse association between alcohol consumption and risk of coronary artery disease has been consistently found in several types of studies, some have argued that the association is due at least partly to the inclusion in the non-drinking reference group of men who abstain because of pre-existing disease. The association between self-reported alcohol intake and coronary disease was studied prospectively among 51,529 male health professionals. In 1986 the participants completed questionnaires about food and alcohol intake and medical history, heart disease risk factors, and dietary changes in the previous 10 years. Follow-up questionnaires in 1988 sought information about newly diagnosed coronary disease. 350 confirmed cases of coronary disease occurred. After adjustment for coronary risk factors, including dietary intake of cholesterol, fat, and dietary fibre, increasing alcohol intake was inversely related to coronary disease incidence (p for trend less than 0.001). Exclusion of 10,302 current non-drinkers or 16,342 men with disorders potentially related to coronary disease (eg, hypertension, diabetes, and gout) which might have led men to reduce their alcohol intake, did not substantially affect the relative risks. These findings support the hypothesis that the inverse relation between alcohol consumption and risk of coronary disease is causal.