Type 2 (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes is associated with a marked increase in the risk of coronary heart disease. It has been debated whether patients with diabetes who have not had myocardial infarctions should be treated as aggressively for cardiovascular risk factors as patients who have had myocardial infarctions. To address this issue, we compared the seven-year incidence of myocardial infarction (fatal and nonfatal) among 1373 nondiabetic subjects with the incidence among 1059 diabetic subjects, all from a Finnish population-based study. The seven-year incidence rates of myocardial infarction in nondiabetic subjects with and without prior myocardial infarction at base line were 18.8 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively (P<0.001). The seven-year incidence rates of myocardial infarction in diabetic subjects with and without prior myocardial infarction at base line were 45.0 percent and 20.2 percent, respectively (P<0.001). The hazard ratio for death from coronary heart disease for diabetic subjects without prior myocardial infarction as compared with nondiabetic subjects with prior myocardial infarction was not significantly different from 1.0 (hazard ratio, 1.4; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.7 to 2.6) after adjustment for age and sex, suggesting similar risks of infarction in the two groups. After further adjustment for total cholesterol, hypertension, and smoking, this hazard ratio remained close to 1.0 (hazard ratio, 1.2; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.6 to 2.4). Our data suggest that diabetic patients without previous myocardial infarction have as high a risk of myocardial infarction as nondiabetic patients with previous myocardial infarction. These data provide a rationale for treating cardiovascular risk factors in diabetic patients as aggressively as in nondiabetic patients with prior myocardial infarction.