It has been established that childhood cardiovascular (CV) risk factors are predictive of adulthood vascular changes as measured by carotid intima-media thickness (IMT). However, whether this relationship is race- and gender-specific is not known. This aspect was examined in a black-white cohort of 868 adults (29% blacks, 42% males) aged 25-44 years who were examined at least twice in childhood for traditional CV risk factors with an average follow-up period of 26.4 years. The average value of the two earliest childhood measurements was used as the childhood value, standardized to age, race, and gender-specific z-score. Carotid IMT was measured by B-mode ultrasonography. The mean of the maximum carotid IMT readings of three right and three left far walls for common, bulb and internal segments was used. In univariate analysis, significant correlates of adulthood carotid IMT (standardized to age-, race- and gender-specific z-score) were, in the order of decreasing magnitude, triglyceride and LDL cholesterol in white males; systolic blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and body mass index (BMI) in white females; systolic blood pressure in black males; BMI and systolic blood pressure in black females. In multivariate regression analysis, significant predictors of carotid IMT were triglycerides and LDL cholesterol in white males; systolic blood pressure and LDL cholesterol in white females; systolic blood pressure in black males; and BMI and LDL cholesterol in black females. In conclusion, the predictability of childhood CV risk factors for increased carotid IMT in adulthood varies by race and gender. The prevention implications of these findings need further investigation.