Both carcinogenic and anticarcinogenic properties have been reported for the synthetic antioxidants butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). The association between dietary intake of BHA and BHT and stomach cancer risk was investigated in the Netherlands Cohort Study (NLCS) that started in 1986 among 120,852 men and women aged 55 to 69 years. A semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire was used to assess food consumption. Information on BHA or BHT content of cooking fats, oils, mayonnaise and other creamy salad dressings and dried soups was obtained by chemical analysis, a Dutch database of food additives (ALBA) and the Dutch Compendium of Foods and Diet Products. After 6.3 years of follow-up, complete data on BHA and BHT intake of 192 incident stomach cancer cases and 2035 subcohort members were available for case-cohort analysis. Mean intake of BHA or BHT among subcohort members was 105 and 351 mu g/day, respectively. For consumption of mayonnaise and other creamy salad dressings with BHA or BHT no association with stomach cancer risk was observed. A statistically non-significant decrease in stomach cancer risk was observed with increasing BHA and BHT intake [rate ratio (RR) highest/lowest intake of BHA = 0.57 (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.25-1.30] and BHT = 0.74 (95% CI: 0.38-1.43). In this study, no significant association with stomach cancer risk was found for usual intake of low levels of BHA and BHT.