Detection of subjects with a high risk of developing dementia is a major goal of epidemiological research. Among the potential predictors, minor cognitive impairments detected by psychometric methods could be important precursors. A total of 2,726 elderly nondemented subjects, aged 65 and over, randomly selected from the general population of Gironde (south-western France) were followed up for 3 years. During this time, 84 developed an incident dementia, diagnosed as Alzheimer's disease (AD) in 59. The relationships between cognitive performance (Mini Mental State Examination, Benton Visual Retention Test and Isaacs Set Test) measured at the baseline screening of the cohort and the risk of dementia or AD were studied with a discrete Cox proportional hazard model. After adjustment for age and educational level, the three test scores remained strongly related to the risk of dementia or AD. Psychometric performance can be used to screen subjects at risk of developing dementia or AD and allow pharmacological intervention at an early stage.