It has been proposed that subcutaneous fat patterning assessed by skinfolds is measuring different aspects of fat distribution compared to circumferences and circumference ratios. In this study in 510 men born in 1950 selected from six European towns we compared the associations between five skinfolds, eight circumferences and several skinfold and circumference ratios and metabolic risk factors after adjustment for body mass index (BMI). All skinfolds were independently of BMI positively related to diastolic blood pressure. Waist circumferences at most levels were independently of BMI positively related to blood pressure and triglycerides and negatively to HDL-cholesterol. Circumferences at the levels of chest, hips, thigh and arm were not related to any of the risk factors studied. Waist/thigh ratios were generally more strongly and more consistently related to risk factors than waist/hip ratios. The partial correlations of anthropometric variables with risk factors were relatively weak and never exceeded r = 0.20. The results give an indication, however, that subcutaneous fat patterning is related to different risk factors compared to waist/hip ratios. Moreover, waist/thigh and waist circumference alone (measured either as the minimal circumference or midway between the lower rib margin and the iliac crest) were stronger correlates of cardiovascular risk factors compared to waist/hip ratio.