Elevated leukocyte count has been associated with cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease in several epidemiological studies. We sought to determine whether white blood cell count (WBC) is associated with carotid plaque thickness in a stroke-free, multiethnic cohort. For this cross-sectional analysis, WBC was measured in stroke-free community subjects undergoing carotid duplex Doppler ultrasound. Maximal internal carotid plaque thickness (MICPT) was measured for each subject. Demographic and potential medical confounding factors were analyzed with linear and logistic regression to calculate the effect of quartile of WBC on MICPT. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for the effect of quartile of WBC on MICPT >/=75th percentile were calculated. All analyses were stratified by race-ethnicity. The mean age of the 1422 subjects was 68.6+/-10.2 years; 40.0% were men; 24.4% were white, 46.9% Hispanic, and 26.7% black. Among Hispanics, compared with the lowest quartile of WBC, those in the highest quartile had significantly increased MICPT (mean difference=0.30 mm, P:=0.0086) after adjustment for age, sex, and other atherosclerotic risk factors. There was no significant increase for blacks or whites. The OR for MICPT >/=75th percentile (1.9 mm) was significantly increased for Hispanics (OR, 2.8; 95% CI, 1.4 to 5.6), marginally elevated for black non-Hispanics (OR, 1.6; 95% CI, 0.8 to 3.2), and not increased for white non-Hispanics (OR, 0.5; 95% CI, 0.2 to 1.1). Relative elevation in WBC is associated with carotid atherosclerosis, but this relationship differs by race-ethnicity. The association is strongest in Hispanics, intermediate in black non-Hispanics, and not present in white non-Hispanics in this population. Chronic subclinical infection or inflammation may account for this association.