An increasing number of descriptive reports on soluble adhesion molecules and association with various diseases are published. Throughout these reports soluble adhesion molecules are identified as markers of inflammation. Since atherosclerosis demonstrates features of a chronic inflammatory disease, a potential association of soluble adhesion molecules with atherosclerosis has been postulated. However, conflicting results have been reported. One reason for this might be the differing definitions of atherosclerosis and patient groups. Besides the definition of atherosclerosis based on clinical symptoms, few reports use a direct quantification of atherosclerosis in their search for a marker of atherosclerosis. In those reports that quantify atherosclerosis, sVCAM-1 seems to be more specific for atherosclerosis than other markers. The serum level of sVCAM-1 appears to correlate with the extent of atherosclerosis and might allow for the detection of early stages of atherosclerosis. Large scale prospective studies will have to prove that sVCAM-1 can be used as a diagnostic tool for the detection of early stages of asymptomatic atherosclerosis and whether an early therapeutic intervention based on this approach is able to prevent progression and manifestation of the clinical sequelae of atherosclerosis.