Patients with familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) or familial defective apolipoprotein B (FDB) have severely increased low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol levels and increased risk for premature coronary artery disease (CAD). Previous data on FDB patients were collected in patients referred to lipid clinics and were therefore subject to referral bias. We assessed the clinical phenotype of FDB in a population free from selection on CAD to compare the atherosclerotic burden with that of heterozygous FH. The study population was actively recruited in a large-scale screening program for inherited hypercholesterolemia in which FH and FDB heterozygotes were diagnosed by standard molecular techniques. Patients with FH and FDB had significantly higher plasma total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol levels compared with their unaffected relatives. As with previous findings in FH, in FDB 19% of the carriers and 17% of the noncarriers of apoB mutations would have been misdiagnosed by cholesterol measurement alone, taking the age- and sex-specific 95th percentile as the diagnostic criterion. In FH patients the CAD risk was 8.5 relative to unaffected family members, whereas FDB patients had a 2.7-fold higher risk of CAD than unaffected relatives. FDB patients, free from clinical selection bias, do show lower total and LDL-cholesterol levels and lower CAD risk compared with FH heterozygotes. However, FDB patients are still exposed to a substantially higher CAD risk compared with unaffected relatives.