We examined topographic distributions of atherosclerosis and their relation to risk factors for adult coronary heart disease in right coronary arteries and abdominal aortas of more than 2000 autopsied persons 15 through 34 years of age. We digitized images of Sudan IV-stained fatty streaks and of manually outlined raised lesions and computed the percent surface area involved by each lesion in each of 6 regions of each artery. In abdominal aortas of 15- to 24-year-old persons, fatty streaks involve an elongated oval area on the dorsolateral intimal surface and another oval area in the middle third of the ventral surface. Raised lesions in 25- to 34-year-old persons involve an oval area in the distal third of the dorsolateral intimal surface. In other areas of the abdominal aortas of older persons, fatty streaks occur but raised lesions are rare. In the right coronary arteries of 15- to 24-year-old persons, fatty streaks are most frequent on the myocardial aspect of the first 2 cm. Raised lesions follow a similar pattern in 25- to 34-year-old persons. High non-HDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol concentrations are associated with more extensive fatty streaks and raised lesions in all regions of both arteries. Smoking is associated with more extensive fatty streaks and raised lesions of the abdominal aorta, particularly in the dorsolateral region of the distal third of the abdominal aorta. Hypertension is not associated with fatty streaks in whites or blacks but is associated with more extensive raised lesions in blacks. Risk factor effects on arterial regions that are vulnerable to lesions are approximately 25% greater than risk factor effects assessed over entire arterial segments. These risk factor effects on vulnerable sites emphasize the need for risk factor control during adolescence and young adulthood to prevent or delay the progression of atherosclerosis.