The purpose of this study was to determine whether bone density in older men was associated with serum sex steroids or sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). Bone density and sex steroids were measured in men over age 65 at 6-mo intervals for an average of 2.1 yr. Bone density was significantly positively associated with greater serum E2 concentrations (+0.21 < r < +0.35; 0.01 < P < 0.05) at all skeletal sites. There were weak negative correlations between serum testosterone and bone density (-0.20 < r < -0.28; 0.03 < P < 0.10) at the spine and hip. SHBG was negatively associated only with bone density in the greater trochanter (r = -0.26, P < 0.05). Greater body weight was associated with lower serum testosterone and SHBG, and greater E2. Because of these associations, regression models which adjusted for age, body weight, and serum sex steroids were constructed; these accounted for 10-30% of the variability in bone density, and showed consistent, significant positive associations between bone density and serum E2 concentrations in men, even after adjustments for weight and SHBG. These data suggest that estrogens may play an important role in the development or maintenance of the male skeleton, much as is the case for the female skeleton. These data also indicate that, within the normal range, lower serum testosterone concentrations are not associated with low bone density in men.