The objective of this study was to determine the inter-relationships between a range of lifestyle factors and risk of varicose veins to identify which factors may be implicated in the etiology. An age-stratified random sample of 1566 subjects (699 men and 867 women) aged 18 to 64 years was selected from 12 general practices throughout Edinburgh. A detailed self-administered questionnaire was completed, and a comprehensive physical examination determined the presence and severity of varicose veins. The slightly higher age-adjusted prevalence of varicose veins in men than in women (39.7% versus 32.2%) was not explained by adjustment for an extensive range of lifestyle risk factors (male odds ratio [OR] 2.11, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.51-2.96). In both sexes, increasing height showed a significant relationship with varicose veins (male OR 1.50, 95% CI 1.18-1.93 and female OR 1.26, 95% CI 1.01-1.58). Among women, body mass index was associated with an increased risk of varicose veins (OR 1.26, 95% CI 1.02-1.54). The current study casts doubt as to whether varicose veins occur predominantly in women. In addition, no consistent relationship with any lifestyle factor was shown. Self-reported evidence suggested a familial susceptibility, thereby warranting future genetic studies.