To determine the associations of total, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol with mortality from coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease, we studied 2541 white men who were 40 to 69 years old at base line and followed them for an average of 10.1 years. Seventeen percent had some manifestation of cardiovascular disease at base line, whereas the others did not. Among the men who had cardiovascular disease at base line, we found, after multivariate adjustment, that those with "high" blood cholesterol levels (above 6.19 mmol per liter) had a risk of death from cardiovascular disease, including coronary heart disease, that was 3.45 times higher (95 percent confidence interval, 1.63 to 7.33) than that for men with "desirable" blood cholesterol levels (below 5.16 mmol per liter). The corresponding hazard ratios were 5.92 (95 percent confidence interval, 2.59 to 13.51) for LDL cholesterol levels above 4.13 mmol per liter as compared with those below 3.35 mmol per liter, and 6.02 (95 percent confidence interval, 2.73 to 13.28) for HDL cholesterol levels below 0.90 mmol per liter as compared with those above 1.16 mmol per liter. All three lipid levels were also significant predictors of death from coronary heart disease alone (P less than 0.005). Total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels were also significant predictors of death from cardiovascular and coronary heart disease in men without preexisting cardiovascular disease, although at a lower level of absolute risk of death. Thus, the 10-year risk of death from cardiovascular disease for a man with preexisting cardiovascular disease increased from 3.8 percent to almost 19.6 percent with increasing levels of total cholesterol from "desirable" to "high," whereas the corresponding risk for a man who was free of cardiovascular disease at base line increased from 1.7 percent to 4.9 percent. Our findings suggest that total, LDL, and HDL cholesterol levels predict subsequent mortality in men 40 to 69 years of age, especially those with preexisting cardiovascular disease.