We carried out a hospital based case-control study involving 320 patients with symptomatic liver cirrhosis (LC) and 320 pair-matched control individuals, in order to estimate the dose-response relationship between both the daily amount and the duration of alcohol intake and the risk of LC. Lifetime alcohol consumption was measured by a standardized and reproducible questionnaire, and expressed as lifetime daily alcohol intake (LDAI) and duration of alcohol consumption (DAC). The odds ratio (OR) for LC was estimated by the conditional logistic regression. It increased from 1.0 for lifetime abstainers to 4.2 for LDAI of 225 g or more. Comparing durations of alcohol consumption of < or = 10 and > or = 30 years in the model, the ORs consistently decreased for all the LDAI categories: from 4.1 to 0.6 in the 25-50 g category; from 15.1 to 0.9 in the 75-100 g category; from 67.2 to 1.5 in the 125 g or more category. Our results suggest that the dose-dependent relationship between alcohol and LC may be mediated by the degree of individual susceptibility to the detrimental effect of alcohol to the liver.