We have estimated the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) from family history of CHD (FHCHD) in 2827 healthy European middle-aged men, and explored the extent to which this can be explained by classical and genetic risk factors. Men with FHCHD (obtained by questionnaire) had a hazard ratio of CHD of 1.73 (95% confidence interval: 1.30, 2.31) compared to those without FHCHD; after adjusting for classical risk factors this did not change substantially. Those with FHCHD had 2.3% lower Factor VIIc (p = 0.03) and 1.14% higher systolic and 1.21% higher diastolic blood pressure (p = 0.04 and p = 0.02), with evidence of interaction between blood pressure and FHCHD status on risk (p = 0.01). The risk for those with a positive family history who were also current smokers was 3.01 compared to non-smokers without FHCHD, which is greater than the risk posed by smoking or FHCHD alone (1.96 and 2.05 respectively compared to non-smokers without FHCHD), but not significantly different from a multiplicative model (p-value for interaction 0.33). Allele frequencies for 13 candidate gene variants were not significantly different between those with and without FHCHD. In those with FHCHD, current smokers who carried the APOE4 allele (e4+) had a hazard ratio of 5.66 compared to non-smokers who had no FHCHD and were not APOE4+, with a significant interaction between smoking and APOE4 in those with FHCHD p = 0.001. These data demonstrate the complex interaction between genetic and environmental factors in determining CHD risk, and suggest that the causes of the familial clustering of CHD remain largely unexplained.