To determine whether Colles' fracture, generally considered a manifestation of postmenopausal osteoporosis, is associated with a decrease in bone density at the site of fracture, we measured bone mineral density of the ultradistal radius (UDR-BMD) by single-photon absorptiometry with computer-assisted image processing. In 119 normal women (ages 22–92 years), UDR-BMD decreased by 17% between ages 30 and 75 years. From UDR-BMD measurements in these normal women and in 40 women (ages 53–80 years) with Colles' fracture alone, a population-based analysis was made to estimate fracture risk at different values of UDR-BMD. Colles' fracture was uncommon at UDR-BMD > 0.40 g/cm2 (the “fracture threshold”). As bone density decreased below this level, fractures became more frequent (a “gradient of risk”).