A group of 17 consecutive regularly menstruating women who gained at least 5 kg the previous year (Group 1) was compared with a control group of similar age, parity and social class (Group 2). Galactorrhea was observed in 6/17 women from group 1 and in 1/16 women from group 2 (chi 2 4.571; p < .05). Average morning prolactin levels were higher in group 1 (8.15 +/- 4.92 micrograms/l) than in group 2 (5.29 +/- 2.48 micrograms/l; p < .05). The two groups were similar in their morning thyroxin, triiodothyronine, TSH, estradiol, cortisol, gastrin, cholecystokinin, somatostatin, oxytocin, insulin and IGF-1 levels. Leptin levels were significantly higher in group 1 than in group 2 (18.85 +/- 10.63 micrograms/l vs. 10.15 +/- 6.38 micrograms/l; p < .02) but this difference could be attributed exclusively to the higher body mass index (BMI) of group 1 (MANCOVA). Analysis of the distribution of basal prolactin levels in group 1 revealed a skewed distribution due to the presence of six outliers (Barnett and Lewis test associated with Mahalanobis distance) whose values were higher than the highest value found in group 2. These outliers were henceforth considered as subgroup 1a, and the remnant patients in group 1 as subgroup 1b. Besides the expected difference in basal prolactin levels between subgroups 1a and 1b (13.72 +/- 3.69 and 5.12 +/- 1.81 micrograms/l, respectively) and the higher frequency of galactorrhea in group 1a (4/6 vs. 2/11; p < .05) no other differences were observed in clinical or basal biochemical parameters. Following domperidone (10 mg, i.v.) the percentual increase in prolactin (delta Prl 20'/Prl 0') was significantly lower in group 1 than in group 2 (23.9 + 15.2 vs. 37.0 +/- 21.2; p < .05). In absolute values, the prolactin rise in subgroup 1a (100.7 +/- 45.5 micrograms/l) was significantly lower (p < .02) than that of subgroup 1b (157.3 +/- 50.3 micrograms/l) and group 2 (152.7 +/- 34.5 micrograms/l). Group 1 (and each one of its two sub-groups) also differed from group 2 in a higher incidence of meaningful life-events the year preceding the study. This study confirms previous observations that recent weight gain in women is preceded by important life-events and is associated with galactorrhea and increased prolactin levels in a number of them. Besides, it provides evidence that the increased prolactin levels are due to reduced hypothalamic dopaminergic tone.