During the entry examination, leg ulcers were present in 2.5% of 2,075 patients 10 years of age and older with sickle cell disease who entered into the Cooperative Study of Sickle Cell Disease (CSSCD) between 1979 and 1986. Prevalence rates were highest among patients with sickle cell anemia and sickle cell anemia with thalassemia genotypes. Among sickle cell anemia patients free of ulcers at entry, the overall incidence was 5.73 per 100 person years in those having associated alpha-thalassemia and 9.97 for those without. Among sickle cell anemia patients with two alpha genes, the estimated incidence of leg ulcers is 2.38 per 100 person years and 6.12 per 100 person years among sickle cell anemia patients with three alpha genes (P less than .05). In both groups, the incidence was highest among those patients over 20 years of age and considerably higher among males than females (P less than .001). Leg ulcers were nonexistent in patients with sickle beta plus thalassemia and sickle hemoglobin C disease. Low steady-state hemoglobin is associated with a higher incidence of ulcer formation (P less than .0001) in sickle cell anemia patients. The protective effect of hemoglobin F is apparent at all levels of total hemoglobin among sickle cell anemia patients and those with associated alpha-thalassemia.