The relationship between exposure to famine in early life and the risk of ascending aorta dilatation (AAD) in adulthood is still unclear; therefore, we aimed to examine the association in the Chinese population. We investigated the data of 2598 adults who were born between 1952 and 1964 in Guangdong, China. All enrolled subjects were categorised into five groups: not exposed to famine, exposed during fetal period, and exposed during early, mid or late childhood. AAD was assessed by cardiac ultrasound. Multivariate logistic regression and interaction tests were performed to estimate the OR and CI on the association between famine exposure and AAD. There were 2598 (943 male, mean age 58·3 ± 3·68 years) participants were enrolled, and 270 (10·4 %) subjects with AAD. We found that famine exposure (OR = 2·266, 95 % CI 1·477, 3·477, P = 0·013) was associated with elevated AAD after adjusting for multiple confounders. In addition, compared with the non-exposed group, the adjusted OR for famine exposure during fetal period, early, mid or late childhood were 1·374 (95 % CI 0·794, 2·364, P = 0·251), 1·976 (95 % CI 1·243, 3·181, P = 0·004), 1·929 (95 % CI 1·237, 3·058, P = 0·004) and 2·227 (95 % CI 1·433, 3·524, P < 0·001), respectively. Subgroup analysis showed that the effect of famine exposure on the association with AAD was more pronounced in female, current smokers, people with BMI ≥ 24 kg/m2 and hypertensive patients. We observed that exposure to famine during early life was linked to AAD in adulthood.