Supplemental vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) has been linked to lower prostate cancer incidence in one randomized trial and several, although not all, observational studies. The evidence regarding dietary intake of individual vitamin E isoforms and prostate cancer is limited and inconclusive, however. We prospectively examined the relations of supplemental vitamin E and dietary intakes of alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta- tocopherols to prostate cancer risk among 295,344 men, ages 50 to 71 years and cancer-free at enrollment in 1995 to 1996, in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. At baseline, participants completed a questionnaire that captured information on diet, supplement use, and other factors. Proportional hazards models were used to estimate relative risks (RR) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) of prostate cancer. During 5 years of follow-up, 10,241 incident prostate cancers were identified. Supplemental vitamin E intake was not related to prostate cancer risk (for >0-99, 100-199, 200-399, 400-799, and > or = 800 IU/d versus never use: RR, 0.97, 0.89, 1.03, 0.99, and 0.97 (95% CI, 0.87-1.07) respectively; Ptrend = 0.90). However, dietary gamma-tocopherol, the most commonly consumed form of vitamin E in the United States, was significantly inversely related to the risk of advanced prostate cancer (for highest versus lowest quintile: RR, 0.68; 95% CI, 0.56-0.84; Ptrend = 0.001). These results suggest that supplemental vitamin E does not protect against prostate cancer, but that increased consumption of gamma-tocopherol from foods is associated with a reduced risk of clinically relevant disease. The potential benefit of gamma-tocopherol for prostate cancer prevention deserves further attention.