Plasma cholesterol is believed to vary more in women than in men, with the menstrual cycle, yet our review of the literature found no consistent pattern. We examined variations in plasma lipoproteins in relation to ovarian hormones in 12 healthy, menstruating women. Twenty fasting blood samples were obtained on alternate days over one menstrual cycle; ovulation was timed by hormone measurements. Plasma was analysed enzymatically for total cholesterol (TC), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) and triacylglycerol (TAG). Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) was estimated by the Friedewald formula. The greatest effect was seen in HDL-C. Concentrations increased by 12% (P < 0.001) between the times of menstruation and ovulation and remained elevated until the following premenstrual phase. The height of peak oestradiol concentrations at ovulation was significantly associated with HDL-C in that phase (r = +0.75, P < 0.01), and with mean HDL-C concentrations over the whole cycle (r = +0.65, P < 0.05). TC and LDL-C also increased at ovulation, by 9% (P < 0.005) and 11% (P < 0.025) respectively, although the effect was more transient. This study demonstrates that consistent changes in plasma lipoproteins do occur during the menstrual cycle.