The entry characteristics of 1367 patients enrolled into the Extracranial/Intracranial Bypass Study were examined to determine if site differences in intracranial and extracranial arterial lesions among racial groups could be explained by differences in risk factors. Blacks were more often hypertensive, diabetic, or cigarette smokers, while whites had higher systolic blood pressure and hemoglobin values. Orientals had the lowest prevalence of vascular risk factors. Despite these differences in risk factors, multivariate analysis showed race to be an independent and strong predictor of the location of cerebrovascular lesions. To our knowledge, this study is unique in documenting risk factors prospectively and systematically in three racial groups simultaneously. Although generalization is limited by possible biases related to patient selection, the results affirm previous tentative conclusions about the role of race in determining the location of cerebrovascular disease.