The objectives were to study the association between metabolic genes involved in alcohol metabolism (CYP2E1 RsaI, CYP2E1 DraI, ADH1C, NQO1) and alcohol consumption in a large sample of healthy controls. Healthy subjects were selected from the International Collaborative Study on Genetic Susceptibility to Environmental Carcinogens (GSEC). Subjects with information on both alcohol consumption and at least one of the studied polymorphisms were included in the analysis (n= 2224). Information on the amount of alcohol consumption was available for a subset of subjects (n =844). None of the studied genes was significantly associated with drinking habits. A significant heterogeneity with age was observed when studying the association between CYP2E1 RsaI and alcohol drinking. CYP2E1 RsaI polymorphism was significantly associated with being a never drinker at older ages (odds ratio [OR] 2.4, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.2-4.8; at ages above 68 years), while the association was reversed at ages below 47 years (OR 0.5, 95% CI 0.2-1.4). For subjects with detailed information on alcohol intake, no association between alcohol quantity and polymorphisms in metabolic genes was observed; subjects carrying the NQO1 polymorphism tended to drink more than subjects carrying the wild-type alleles. Therefore, no significant association between CYP2E1 RsaI, CYP2E1 DraI, ADH1C, NQO1 polymorphisms and alcohol consumption was observed in healthy controls. © 2004 Taylor & Francis Ltd.