A study of the prevalence of symptoms suggestive of irritable bowel syndrome in 798 women referred to a gynecological clinic is reported; 321 women referred to dermatology and ear, nose, and throat clinics served as controls. Data were collected by a mailed symptom questionnaire. The prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome in the gynecological group was 37.3% compared with 27.7% in controls (P = 0.003). Approximately 50% of women referred with abdominal pain, dyspareunia, and dysmenorrhea had symptoms compatible with irritable bowel syndrome (P less than 0.005), whereas the prevalence in those referred for cervical abnormalities, termination/sterilization or perineal problems was similar to that of controls (28%). Patients referred with urinary symptoms, heavy periods, nonmenstrual bleeding, vaginal discharge, and infertility had an intermediate prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome (35-45%). This study suggests that either many women with irritable bowel syndrome are being wrongly referred to gynecologists or raises the possibility that symptoms currently regarded as indicative of irritable bowel syndrome may be associated with certain gynecological disorders.