The following two questions concerning diet recall were addressed when studying 117 incident cancer cases and 99 controls from the Adventist Mortality Study. Are recalls of past dietary habits reliable? Does recall ability differ between cancer cases and controls? Two sets of dietary data were compared using the American Cancer Society's food frequency questionnaire--as reported in 1960 and recalled in 1984. Ability to recall 21 key food items was evaluated both for individual foods and a combination of all foods by comparing recall scores. The comparison revealed that among food groups, 24-year recall ability varied greatly. There was no significant difference in recall ability between cancer incident cases and controls after controlling for factors that may be related to recall ability (e.g., age, education, and sex). Also, there was no significant difference in recall ability among subjects with or without other chronic diseases likely to affect diet pattern. The results revealed no significant differences in recall ability by sex and body mass index; however, significant differences by vegetarian status and diet stability were found. Significant differences by educational level were found only in univariate analysis.