It has been suggested that phytoestrogens protect against hormone-dependent cancers. Lignans are the main class of phytoestrogens in Western diets. We conducted a prospective study of endometrial cancer and circulating levels of the main human lignan, enterolactone. The design was a case-control study nested within 3 prospective cohort studies, in New York, Sweden and Italy. Serum or plasma samples had been collected at enrollment and stored at -80 degrees C. A total of 153 cases, diagnosed a median of 5.3 years after blood donation, and 271 matched controls were included. No difference in circulating enterolactone was observed between cases (median, 19.2 nmol/L) and controls (18.5 nmol/L). Adjusting for body mass index, the odds ratio for the top tertile of enterolactone, as compared to the lowest was 1.2 (95% CI, 0.7-2.0; p for trend = 0.53). Lack of association was observed in both pre- and postmenopausal women. No correlation was observed between enterolactone and circulating estrogens or SHBG in healthy postmenopausal women. These results do not support a protective role of circulating lignans, in the range of levels observed, against endometrial cancer.