Excess iron has been postulated as a risk factor for coronary artery disease (CAD) because of its presence in atherosclerotic lesions, its ability to oxidize low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDLc), and its promotion of oxygen reperfusion damage after an ischemic event. Whether iron, indirectly measured by its storage protein ferritin and its transport protein transferrin, is related to CAD was examined in a consecutive series of white male (n = 457) and female (n = 114) cardiac patients. Atherosclerosis measures were analyzed in patients grouped by tertiles of ferritin. A similar analysis was done with tertiles of transferrin. Contrary to expectations, men in the third tertile of ferritin had a smaller mean number of stenoses than men in the two lower tertiles (4.9 versus 5.6 and 5.9; P = 0.027); otherwise, there were no statistically significant differences in either number of lesions or extent of arterial narrowing based on tertiles of either measure. Separate multiple logistic regression models with age, fibrinogen, LDLc and triglycerides as covariates provided no evidence that ferritin (odds ratio = 0.88 with 95% C.I. = 0.72-1.07 for men and odds ratio = 0.79 with 95% C.I. = 0.54-1.16 for women) or transferrin (odds ratio = 0.60 with 95% C.I. = 0.31-1.16 for men and odds ratio = 1.33 with 95% C.I. 0.52-3.42 for women) were important correlates of the presence of atherosclerosis in this study.