One of the most potent pro-inflammatory mediators is the early-acting cytokine interleukin-1. Its actions are regulated by a structurally related anti-inflammatory cytokine known as the interleukin-1 receptor antagonist. We have previously characterized a DNA polymorphism in this gene (IL-1rn) and have found associations between allele 2 and several chronic inflammatory diseases. In the present study, we tested the frequency of allele 2 of the IL-1rn gene in 90 patients with alopecia areata compared with 261 healthy controls. There was a significant association between allele 2 of the polymorphism and the severity of alopecia areata. The frequency of allele 2 increased from 24.1% in the control population to 25.9% in patchy alopecia areata, 36.1% in alopecia totalis, and 47.2% in alopecia universalis (p = 0.005). This severity association is similar to that found in other epithelial-related diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, lichen sclerosus, and systemic lupus erythematosus.