BACKGROUND: Serum cystatin C level is a more sensitive marker of renal dysfunction than serum creatinine level. Serum cystatin C level was recently reported to predict the development of cardiovascular disease. This study was performed to evaluate whether the cystatin C level is associated with coronary artery disease (CAD), independent of diabetic nephropathy. METHODS: We conducted a case-control study to assess the relationship between serum cystatin C level and coronary artery disease in diabetic patients. Among 460 diabetic patients, 38 diabetic patients had CAD. The control group consisted of 38 diabetic patients who were matched to cases by age, sex, and presence/absence of diabetic nephropathy. Serum cystatin C level was measured in stored samples. RESULTS: Serum cystatin C level was significantly higher in patients with diabetic nephropathy, both in CAD and non-CAD patients. However, serum cystatin C level did not differ between CAD and non-CAD patients, regardless of diabetic nephropathy. CONCLUSION: Serum cystatin C level is a marker of renal dysfunction, but not coronary artery disease, in diabetic patients.