The aim of the present study was to examine possible pathophysiological relationships among a wide array of proatherogenic risk factors in postmenopausal women. Fasting lipids, apoB (apolipoprotein B), BMI (body mass index) and waist circumference were measured in 178 women (59.4 +/- 7.2 years) from the Turkish Adult Risk Factor Study. Fasting levels of complement C3, insulin, SHBG (sex hormone-binding globulin), cortisol, oestradiol, testosterone and DHEA-S (dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate) were also determined. This is the first study to examine the relationships of all these variables with apoB. In the first of two different approaches, three groups of obese women were compared. Group 1 comprised women who were normolipidaemic with normal apoB; group 2, women who were hypertriglyceridaemic, but with normal apoB; and group 3, women who were hypertriglyceridaemic with elevated apoB. Complement C3, fasting insulin and glucose were significantly higher and HDL-C (high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol) and SHBG levels were significantly lower in group 3 than in group 1. In the former group, the testosterone/SHBG ratio tended to be higher, indicating more free testosterone, than in group 1. The mean risk score in group 3 and the odds ratio for coronary disease by logistic regression analysis were significantly higher, 2.56 (confidence intervals, 1.12-5.85; P = 0.026), compared with the two other groups combined. In examining the whole group, apoB levels correlated significantly with a wider array of pro-atherogenic risk factors than did LDL-C (low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol), particularly being linked to complement C3 and glucose, as well as the risk score. Complement C3 demonstrated the widest associations and was significantly linked with BMI, waist circumference, insulin, glucose, fibrinogen, triacylglycerols (triglycerides) and apoB and was inversely correlated with HDL-C and SHBG. SHBG was also correlated inversely with a wide spectrum of risk variables. In summary, in Turkish women, apoB was linked with a complex array of proatherogenic risk factors, and hypertriglyceridaemia with elevated apoB was associated with a higher risk of coronary disease.