We investigated age- and gender-specific incidence of shingles reported in a large sentinel practice network monitoring a defined population over the years 1994-2001. In total, 5915 male and 8617 female incident cases were studied. For each age group, we calculated the relative risk of females to males presenting with shingles. Incidence rates of chickenpox and herpes simplex were examined similarly. Shingles incidence was greater in females in each age group (except for 15-24 years). Relative risks (female to male) were greatest in age groups 45-64 years (1.48) and 0-14 years (1.43). There were no gender differences in the incidence of chickenpox except in the 15-24 years age group (female excess): for herpes simplex there were female excesses in all age groups. Gender-specific age-standardized incidence rates of shingles were calculated for each year and showed a consistent female excess in each of the 8 years (average annual excess 28%).