Early life events may affect adult survival. We studied the effect of prenatal exposure to the Dutch famine 1944--45 on survival among 2254 people born in Amsterdam. Mortality up to age 50 was highest among those born before the famine (15.2%) and among those exposed to famine in late gestation (14.6%). It was lower among those exposed in mid- (11.2%) or early gestation (11.5%), and was lowest among those conceived after the famine (7.2%). These differences were caused by effects on mortality in the first year after birth and were mainly related to nutrition and infections. There was no effect of exposure to famine on mortality after the age of 18. The hazard ratio was 1.4 [0.8, 2.3] for those born before the famine, 1.1 [0.5, 2.3] for those exposed in late gestation, 0.8 [0.3, 1.8] for those exposed in mid-gestation and 1.1 [0.5, 2.5] in those exposed in early gestation compared with those conceived after the famine. We could not demonstrate effects of prenatal exposure to famine on cause-specific mortality after the age of 18. Because prenatal exposure to famine is linked to cardiovascular risk factors and disease, increased cardiovascular mortality in the future may be expected.