The aims of this study were to determine common international risk factors for hip fracture in women aged 50 years or more. We studied women aged 50 years or more who sustained a hip fracture in 14 centers from Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, and Turkey over a 1-year period. Women aged 50 years or more selected from the neighborhood or population registers served as controls. Cases and controls were interviewed using a structured questionnaire on work, physical activity, exposure to sunlight, reproductive, history and gynecologic status, height, weight, mental score, and consumption of tobacco, alcohol, calcium, coffee, and tea. Significant risk factors identified by univariate analysis included low body mass index (BMI), short fertile period, low physical activity. lack of sunlight exposure, low milk consumption, no consumption of tea, and a poor mental score. No significant adverse effects of coffee or smoking were observed. Moderate intake of spirits was a protective factor in young adulthood, but otherwise no significant effect of alcohol intake was observed. For some risks, a threshold effect was observed. A low BMI and milk consumption were significant risks only in the lowest 50% and 10% of the population, respectively. A late menarche, poor mental score, low BMI and physical activity, low exposure to sunlight, and a low consumption of calcium and tea remained independent risk factors after multivariate analysis, accounting for 70% of hip fractures. Excluding mental score and age at menarche (not potentially reversible), the attributable risk was 56%. Thus, about half of the hip fractures could be explained on the basis of the potentially reversible risk factors sought. In contrast, the use of risk factors to "predict" hip fractures had moderate sensitivity and specificity. We conclude that variations in lifestyle factors are associated with significant differences in the risk of hip fracture, account for a large component of the total risk, and may be of some value in selecting individuals at high risk.