Several studies show that inflammatory components may contribute to atherosclerosis and increase the risk for myocardial infarction (MI). Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a key pro-inflammatory and immune-modulatory cytokine of relevance for cardiovascular diseases. In this case-control study, 200 patients with MI and 257 healthy controls were genotyped for the polymorphism present in -174 promoter region of the IL-6 gene. Plasma concentrations of IL-6 and C-reactive protein (CRP) in a group of patients and controls were measured. The -174 C allele was associated with an increased risk of developing MI (OR = 2.886, c.i. = 1.801-4.624, P = 0.0001) in older patients, while no association was found in younger ones. The IL-6 plasma levels were higher in patients with MI carrying the CC genotype than in GG patients (CC carriers, IL-6 = 2.97 pg mL(-1) vs. GG carriers = 1.81 pg mL(-1), P = 0.016). A positive correlation of IL-6 levels with those of CRP in serum from patients with MI was also found. Data from this study suggest that the C allele of the promoter polymorphism in the IL-6 gene is a risk factor for MI in the elderly, and the production of the IL-6 is differentially affected by different genotypes of the IL-6 -174 promoter polymorphism.