The Women's Health Study (WHS) is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial designed to evaluate the balance of benefits and risks of low-dose aspirin and vitamin E in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer in women. A total of 39,876 female health professionals, age 45 years or older and without a history of cardiovascular disease or cancer (other than nonmelanoma skin cancer), were randomized in a 2x2 factorial design to one of four treatment groups: active aspirin and vitamin E placebo, aspirin placebo and active vitamin E, both active agents, or both placebos. The process of randomization was successful, as evidenced by the equal distribution of a large number of baseline demographic, lifestyle, and health history characteristics among the four treatment groups. Similar distribution of known potential confounders, as well as the large sample size, provides reassuring evidence that unmeasured or unknown potential confounders are also equally distributed. As expected in a clinical trial, the women in the study are healthier in some respects than the general population, but they have very comparable rates of obesity, hypertension, and elevated cholesterol. With adequate duration of treatment and follow-up, this trial will provide important and relevant information on the balance of benefits and risks of aspirin and vitamin E supplementation in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer in women.