Background The effect of dietary salt intake on important population outcomes such as mortality is controversial. The aim of this study was to examine the association between the dietary habit of adding salt to food and mortality in older men. Design, participants, setting and measurements A risk factor questionnaire which contained a question about the dietary habit of adding salt to food was completed by 11742 community recruited older men between 1996 and 1999. The men were followed by means of the Western Australia Data Linkage System until November 30th 2010. Deaths due to cardiovascular diseases and cancers were identified using ICD-10 codes in the ranges I00–I99 and C00-D48, respectively. The association between the frequencies of adding salt to food and mortality was assessed using Kaplan Meier estimates and Cox proportional hazard analysis. Results Median follow-up for survivors was 12.5 years (inter-quartile range 8.3–13.2 years). A total of 5399 deaths occurred of which the primary cause registered was cancer and cardiovascular disease in 1962 (36.3%) and 1835 (34.0%) men, respectively. The reported frequency of adding salt to food was strongly positively associated with all-cause (p<0.001), cancer-related (p<0.001) but not cardiovascular-related (p=0.649) mortality. Men reporting adding salt to their food always had a 1.12-fold (95% CI 1.05–1.20, p<0.001) and a 1.20-fold (95% CI 1.07–1.34, p=0.001) increased risk of all-cause and cancer-related mortality, respectively, after adjusting for other risk factors. Men reporting adding salt to their food sometimes had a 1.16-fold (95% CI 1.04–1.29, p=0.007) increased risk of cancer-related mortality after adjusting for other risk factors. Conclusion A history of adding salt to food is associated with increased cancer-related mortality in older men.