Adherence to traditional Mediterranean diet (MD) has been reported to be inversely associated with total, as well as cardiovascular, mortality. We have examined the relation between degree of such adherence and incidence of cancer overall in a general population sample of 25 623 participants (10 582 men, 15 041 women) of the Greek segment of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and nutrition (EPIC). All subjects completed a validated, interviewer-administered, semi-quantitative food-frequency questionnaire at enrolment. Degree of adherence to the traditional MD was assessed through a 10-point scale (0 minimal; 9 maximal) that incorporated key dietary characteristics. During a median follow-up of 7.9 years and 188 042 total person-years, 851 medically confirmed incident cancer cases (421 men, 430 women) were recorded. Using proportional hazards regression with adjustment for potential confounders, we found that a higher degree of MD adherence was associated with lower overall cancer incidence. A two-point increase in the score corresponded to a 12% reduction in cancer incidence (adjusted hazard ratio, 0.88 (95% confidence interval 0.80, 0.95)). The association was exposure-dependent and stronger among women. This inverse association with MD adherence was considerably stronger than that predicted on the basis of the associations of the individual components of this diet and points to the value of analysing dietary patterns in cancer studies.