The present study evaluated the effect of hypertension (HT), dyslipidemia and diabetes mellitus (DM) on the development of coronary atherosclerosis in the Japanese population, using a cross-sectional study of 433 patients (254 men and 179 women) aged 30 years or older who underwent coronary angiography for suspected or known coronary heart disease angina at 5 cardiology departments in the Fukuoka area between September 1996 and August 1997. Patients with a disease duration of 6 months or more were excluded. The main outcome measure was angiographically defined coronary artery stenosis and was found to a significant degree in 146 patients (33.7%). HT, DM, low levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) and hypertriglyceridemia remained as significant coronary artery disease (CAD) risk factors even after controlling for age, sex, hospital, smoking, alcohol use, body mass index and leisure time physical activity. However, hypercholesterolemia was not a significant risk factor after adjusting for these variables. After controlling for these variables, DM, low HDL-C and hypertriglyceridemia were significant CAD risk factors for men, but only DM was a significant CAD risk factor in women. These results indicate that in Japan DM, low HDL-C and hypertriglyceridemia may be more important CAD risk factors than hypercholesterolemia.