The relationship between various micronutrients and colorectal cancer risk was investigated using data from a case-control study conducted between January 1992 and June 1996 in Italy. Cases were 1,953 incident, histologically confirmed colorectal cancers (1,225 of the colon and 728 of the rectum), admitted to the major teaching and general hospitals in the study areas, and 4,154 controls with no history of cancer, admitted to hospitals in the same catchment areas for acute, non-neoplastic diseases unrelated to the digestive tract and requiring no long-term modifications of the diet. Dietary habits were investigated using a validated food-frequency questionnaire. Odds ratio (ORs) were computed after allowance for age, sex and other potential confounding factors, including physical activity, total energy and fibre intake. For most micronutrients, ORs were below unity with increasing quintile of intake. The most consistent protective effects were for carotene, riboflavin and vitamin C (Multivariate ORs from the continuous model, with unit set as the difference between the upper cut-point of the 4th quintile and that of the 1st one, were 0.65, 0.73 and 0.80, respectively). Inverse relationships were observed also for calcium and vitamin D (ORs of 0.85 and 0.93, respectively). When the combined effect of calcium and vitamin D and selected anti-oxidants was considered, the OR reached 0.46 in subjects reporting high calcium/vitamin D and high anti-oxidant intake compared to those reporting low intake of both groups of micronutrients. Most results were apparently stronger for colon cancer and among females. Our results provide further support for a protective effect of several micronutrients on colorectal cancer risk and some indications for a specific and stronger effect of selected anti-oxidants.