Epidemiologic studies of diet and pancreas cancer are few, and include ecologic comparisons and a limited number of prospective and case-control studies. Foods and/or nutrients that have been suggested to be associated with increased risk of this cancer include total fat intake, eggs, animal protein, sugar, meat, coffee and butter. Consumption of raw fruits and vegetables has been consistently associated with decreased risk. Dietary habits and medical history variables were evaluated in a prospective study of fatal pancreas cancer among 34,000 California Seventh-day Adventists between 1976 and 1983. Forty deaths from pancreas cancer occurred during the follow-up period. Compared to all US whites, Adventists experienced decreased risk from pancreas cancer death (standardized mortality ratio [SMR] = 72 for men; 90 for women), which was not statistically significant. Although there was a suggestive relationship between increasing meat, egg, and coffee consumption and increased pancreatic cancer risk, these variables were not significantly related to risk after controlling for cigarette smoking. However, increasing consumption of vegetarian protein products, beans, lentils, and peas as well as dried fruit was associated with highly significant protective relationships to pancreas cancer risk. A prior history of diabetes was associated with increased risk of subsequent fatal pancreas cancer, as was a history of surgery for peptic or duodenal ulcer. A history of tonsillectomy was associated with a slight, nonsignificant protective relationship as was history of various allergic reactions. These findings suggest that the protective relationships associated with frequent consumption of vegetables and fruits high in protease-inhibitor content are more important than any increase in pancreas cancer risk attendant on frequent consumption of meat or other animal products. Furthermore, the previously reported positive associations between diabetes and abdominal surgery and pancreas cancer risk are supported in these data.