Apolipoprotein(a) [apo(a)] exhibits a genetic size polymorphism explaining about 40% of the variability in lipoprotein(a) [Lp(a)] concentration in Tyroleans. Lp(a) concentrations and apo(a) phenotypes were determined in 7 ethnic groups (Tyrolean, Icelandic, Hungarian, Malay, Chinese, Indian, Black Sudanese) and the effects of the apo(a) size polymorphism on Lp(a) levels were estimated in each group. Average Lp(a) concentrations were highly significantly different among these populations, with the Chinese (7.0 mg/dl) having the lowest and the Sudanese (46 mg/dl) the highest levels. Apo(a) phenotype and derived apo(a) allele frequencies were also significantly different among the populations. Apo(a) isoform effects on Lp(a) levels were not significantly different among populations. Lp(a) levels were however roughly twice as high in the same phenotypes in the Indians, and several times as high in the Sudanese, compared with Caucasians. The size variation of apo(a) explains from 0.77 (Malays) to only 0.19 (Sudanese) of the total variability in Lp(a) levels. Together these data show (I) that there is considerable heterogeneity of the Lp(a) polymorphism among populations, (II) that differences in apo(a) allele frequencies alone do not explain the differences in Lp(a) levels among populations and (III) that in some populations, e.g. Sudanese Blacks, Lp(a) levels are mainly determined by factors that are different from the apo(a) size polymorphism.