Nutritional conditions early in human life may influence phenotypic characteristics in later generations. A male-line transgenerational pathway, triggered by the early environment, has been postulated with support from animal and a small number of human studies. Here we analyse individuals born in Uppsala Sweden 1915–29 with linked data from their children and parents, which enables us to explore the hypothesis that pre-pubertal food abundance may trigger a transgenerational effect on cancer events. We used cancer registry and cause-of-death data to analyse 3422 cancer events in grandchildren (G2) by grandparental (G0) food access. We show that variation in harvests and food access in G0 predicts cancer occurrence in G2 in a specific way: abundance among paternal grandfathers, but not any other grandparent, predicts cancer occurrence in grandsons but not in granddaughters. This male-line response is observed for several groups of cancers, suggesting a general susceptibility, possibly acquired in early embryonic development. We observed no transgenerational influence in the middle generation.