The objective of this population-based case-control study was to determine the independent association between height, weight at different ages and adult weight change on hip fracture risk, and the joint effects of these factors. The study base comprised postmenopausal women 50-81 years of age who resided in six counties in Sweden during the period October 1993 to February 1995. The study included 1,327 cases with an incident hip fracture and 3,262 randomly selected controls. We obtained information on body measures and other factors possibly related to hip fracture through mailed questionnaires and telephone interviews. Height and weight change were dominant risk factors. Tall women (> or = 169 cm) had an odds ratio of 3.16 (95% confidence interval = 2.47-4.05) compared with women shorter than 159 cm. Weight gain during adult life was strongly protective: compared with those with moderate weight change (-3 to 3 kg), those with substantial weight gain (> or =12 kg) had a markedly decreased risk of hip fracture (odds ratio = 0.35; 95% confidence interval = 0.27-0.45), whereas weight loss was associated with an increased risk. Weight change retained important effects among all subjects, even after controlling for current weight and weight at age 18. In contrast, among women who gained weight, the separate effects of current weight and weight at age 18 were small or absent. Among women who lost weight, both current weight and weight at age 18 had effects that remained after controlling for weight change. Adult weight change and height are dominant body size risk factors for hip fracture. Weight loss vs weight changes demarcates different patterns of hip fracture risk.