Factors that influence low birth weight at term may also be associated with subcutaneous fat patterning in later life. This hypothesis was investigated in a comparative (retrospective) cohort study. The subjects, born in Cardiff between 1975 and 1977, were of mean age 15.7 years. Cases (low birth weight (< 2500 g) at term) were matched with controls (normal birth weight (3000-3800 g) at term) for sex, parity, place of birth, date of birth, and gestation. Subscapular skinfold (an index of central subcutaneous fat) and triceps skinfold (an index of peripheral subcutaneous fat) were measured using a Holtain skinfold caliper. The differences (cases minus controls) (95% confidence interval) for subscapular and triceps skinfolds were respectively -0.3 mm (-1.74 to 1.14) and -0.48 mm (-1.75 to 0.79). These findings are inconsistent with the hypothesis that low birth weight at term is associated with subcutaneous fat patterning in adolescence.