Although levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol in males decrease during adolescence and after treatment with testosterone derivatives, several studies have reported that levels of HDL cholesterol are positively associated with endogenous levels of testosterone in men. This association was further examined using data collected during 1985 and 1986 from 3,562 white and 500 black men who ranged in age from 31 to 45 years. Black men had higher mean levels of both HDL cholesterol (8 mg/dl) and total testosterone (33 ng/dl) than white men, and positive associations were observed between testosterone and HDL cholesterol levels (r = 0.22, whites; r = 0.26, blacks). In addition, levels of testosterone were related positively to alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking and negatively to age, Quetelet index, and use of beta-blockers. We used stratification and regression analyses to determine if any of these characteristics could account for the positive association between levels of HDL cholesterol and total testosterone. Although controlling for most factors had little influence, adjusting for Quetelet index reduced the strength of the association between levels of testosterone and HDL cholesterol by approximately 30%. These findings suggest that the positive association between levels of testosterone and HDL cholesterol may not be causal. Multivariable analyses that control for obesity and other potentially confounding characteristics should be used in studies that assess the relation of testosterone levels to coronary heart disease.