BACKGROUND: Results from several cohort and case-control studies suggest a protective association between current alcohol intake and risk of thyroid carcinoma, but the epidemiological evidence is not completely consistent and several questions remain unanswered. METHODS: The association between alcohol consumption at recruitment and over the lifetime and risk of differentiated thyroid carcinoma was examined in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. Among 477 263 eligible participants (70% women), 556 (90% women) were diagnosed with differentiated thyroid carcinoma over a mean follow-up of 11 years. Hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated using multivariable Cox proportional hazards models. RESULTS: Compared with participants consuming 0.1-4.9 g of alcohol per day at recruitment, participants consuming 15 or more grams (approximately 1-1.5 drinks) had a 23% lower risk of differentiated thyroid carcinoma (HR=0.77; 95% CI=0.60-0.98). These findings did not differ greatly when analyses were conducted for lifetime alcohol consumption, although the risk estimates were attenuated and not statistically significant anymore. Similar results were observed by type of alcoholic beverage, by differentiated thyroid carcinoma histology or according to age, sex, smoking status, body mass index and diabetes. CONCLUSIONS: Our study provides some support to the hypothesis that moderate alcohol consumption may be associated with a lower risk of papillary and follicular thyroid carcinomas.