Enlarged subcutaneous abdominal adipocytes have been shown to predict incidence of type 2 diabetes (T2D) in the Pima population of Arizona (USA). We investigated the role of subcutaneous abdominal adipocyte size (AAS), as well as femoral adipocyte size (FAS), as predictors of T2D in a population-based Swedish cohort. In 1974-1975, a sample of 1302 middle-aged women underwent a health examination, including anthropometry and evaluation of parental medical history. In addition, body composition (total body potassium and total body water), AAS and FAS (adipose tissue needle biopsy) were assessed in a subsample of 245 women. Incidence of T2D was followed until 2001, with 36 cases eligible for inclusion in this analysis. Women developing T2D had larger AAS at baseline vs. women remaining healthy (age/heredity-adjusted hazard ratio for increase of AAS by 1 sd [AAS-HR] 1.91; P<0.001). Further adjustment for both body fat percentage and waist-to-height ratio (WHtR) indicated a robust association. For FAS, the corresponding associations were consistently weaker. WHtR retained a strong predictive association independent of AAS and FAS (WHtR-HR 2.6 and 2.7, respectively; P<0.001). To conclude, in addition to the amount and distribution of body fat in women, subcutaneous adipocyte size, particularly in the abdominal region, predicts incidence of T2D in later life.