Previous work has suggested that men (M) are more sensitive to cold stress than women. There have also been observations that suggest that amenorrheic women (AW) are less thermally responsive than eumenorrheic women (EW). We investigated the hypothesis that M, EW, and AW would have different responses to cold stress. The subjects (6/group) were tested four times: twice at rest for 60 min (5 and 22 degrees C) and twice in a progressive exercise test (5 and 22 degrees C). At rest at 22 degrees C AW had a lower O2 uptake (VO2) than M and lower rectal (Tre) and finger temperatures than EW. At rest at 5 degrees C both AW and EW had lower skin temperature (Tsk) than M, but there were no group differences in peripheral Tsk sites. M increased VO2 after 10 min and EW after 20 min of cold stress; however, AW did not increase metabolism until 60 min. In the two exercise tests Tre increased in proportion to relative work load; in the 5 degrees C test there was little evidence that exercise increased Tsk sites above rest levels. Few of the metabolic or thermal differences could be accounted for by body fatness, body surface area (BSA), or BSA/kg. The data support the hypothesis that M, EW, and AW have different responses to cold stress.