The aims of this study were to identify risk factors for hip fracture in men aged 50 years or more. We identified 730 men with hip fracture from 14 centers from Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey during the course of a prospective study of hip fracture incidence and 1132 age-stratified controls selected from the neighborhood or population registers. The questionnaire examined aspects of work, physical activity past and present, diseases and drugs, height, weight, indices of co-morbidity and consumption of tobacco, alcohol, calcium, coffee and tea. Significant risk factors identified by univariate analysis included low body mass index (BMI), low sunlight exposure, a low degree of recreational physical activity, low consumption of milk and cheese, and a poor mental score. Co-morbidity including sleep disturbances, loss of weight, impaired mental status and poor appetite were also significant risk factors. Previous stroke with hemiplegia, prior fragility fractures, senile dementia, alcoholism and gastrectomy were associated with significant risk, whereas osteoarthrosis, nephrolithiasis and myocardial infarction were associated with lower risks. Taking medications was not associated with a difference in risk apart from a protective effect with the use of analgesics independent of co-existing osteoarthrosis and an increased risk with the use of anti-epileptic agents. Of the potentially 'reversible' risk factors, BMI, leisure exercise, exposure to sunlight and consumption of tea and alcohol and tobacco remained independent risk factors after multivariate analysis, accounting for 54% of hip fractures. Excluding BMI, 46% of fractures could be explained on the basis of the risk factors sought. Of the remaining factors low exposure to sunlight and decreased physical activity accounted for the highest attributable risks (14% and 9% respectively). The use of risk factors to predict hip fractures had relatively low sensitivity and specificity (59.6% and 61.0% respectively). We conclude that lifestyle factors are associated with significant differences in the risk of hip fracture. Potentially remediable factors including a low degree of physical exercise and a low BMI account for a large component of the total risk.