Changing trends in lifestyle exposures are suggested to be contributing factors to the increasing incidence rates for lymphoma. We investigated the relationship between smoking and alcohol consumption and the risk of lymphoma among adult participants of a population-based case-control study recently conducted in Germany. In 710 case-control pairs, an increased risk of lymphoma was associated with a long duration of smoking (p for trend = 0.01 for men) and smoking of > 20 cigarettes per day(OR = 2.7; 95% CI = 1.4–5.2 for women). Elevated odds ratios were seen for most lymphoma subentities, albeit mostly without reaching statistical significance. A strong association was evident between smoking and multiple myeloma (OR = 2.4, 95% CI = 0.98–5.74 for men; OR = 2.9, 95% CI = 1.1–7.4 for women) and Hodgkin's lymphoma among men (OR = 3.6; 95% CI = 1.7–7.5). Alcohol consumption 10 years prior to the date of interview appeared to decrease the risk of lymphoma. Odds ratios for men who reported alcohol consumption were 53% lower (95% CI = 0.31–0.71) compared to men who drank very little or no alcohol. The same tendency was evident for women, although the association was less pronounced. The inverse relationship was also seen for low amounts of alcohol and did not appear to be restricted to specific types of beverages. Although biologic rationale for a protective effect of alcohol consumption may be given, a more in-depth analysis involving genetic markers is indicated to clarify if ethanol, other components in alcoholic beverages, or factors associated with moderate drinking reduce lymphoma risk among adults. In conclusion, this investigation suggests a positive association between tobacco smoking and lymphoma risk and finds decreased odds ratios among consumers of alcohol. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.