AIMS: This study was designed to describe the alcohol use by female surgeons and the hazards of their drinking habits for them compared with the habits of female doctors from non-surgical specialities, and with those of their male colleagues in surgery, and to identify the variables associated with hazardous drinking. METHODS: The data were collected in 2000 from a representative national sample of 1120 Norwegian doctors. Alcohol use was measured using a modified version of the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test. A score of 9 or more was used as an indicator of hazardous drinking. RESULTS: Female surgeons compared with female non-surgeons had tendencies for more frequent moderate alcohol consumption accompanied by more frequent consumption of larger amounts of alcohol, and a significantly higher rate of hazardous drinking (18 vs 7.6%). Being a surgeon (OR = 1.7, 95% CI 1.2-2.4), male (OR = 2.7, 1.7-4.1) and aged 45 years or over (OR = 1.5, 1.1-2.2) were significant predictors of hazardous drinking. With separate gender analyses, being a surgeon was a significant predictor for both females (OR = 2.8, 1.2-6.6) and males (OR = 1.5, 1.0-2.3). CONCLUSION: Female surgeons practising in Norway drink more frequently and more hazardously than other female doctors. There are a number of possible explanations for this. Surgical culture may be an important factor.