INTRODUCTION The effect of hyperlipidemia on asthma has never been addressed. Recent literature implicates a pro-inflammatory role for hypercholesterolemia. This study evaluates the effect of serum cholesterol level on asthma frequency. METHODS Factors associated with asthma risk were examined in a retrospective study design. Study subjects were between the 4 and 20 years of age who presented to a rural pediatric clinic and whose total serum cholesterol level was obtained. Diagnosis of asthma was determined by the treating physician. Multivariable logistic regression was performed to identify variables that were related to the odds of having asthma. RESULTS A total of 188 patients were included. Asthma was present in 50 patients. Total serum cholesterol (mean +/- SD) for the asthma group was 176.7 +/- 39.8 compared to 162.9 +/- 12.8 in the non-asthma group (P = 0.028). A total of 21 of the 50 (42%) asthma patients were obese compared to 31 of the 138 (22%) non-asthma patients (p = 0.014). There was no difference between both groups regarding age and gender. Hypercholesterolemia and obesity were identified by logistic regression analysis to increase the probability of asthma independently. CONCLUSION Hypercholesterolemia is a potential risk factor for asthma independent of obesity.