• Bone loss;
  • menopause;
  • osteoporosis.

Abstract We have followed the changes in bone mass over 2 years in 42 premenopausal, seven perimenopausal and 76 postmenopausal women. The latter had passed a natural menopause between 6 months and 7 years previously. Bone mass was measured every 3 months at the proximal and distal forearm sites by single photon absorptiometry, and every 6 and 12 months in the lumbar spine and whole body by dual photon absorptiometry. The relative content of trabecular bone is approximately 15, 50, 60 and 20% at these four sites. Before the menopause there was a significantly low rate of bone loss from the two forearm sites and the whole body, whereas the spinal loss was insignificant. The rate of loss was five- to tenfold higher at all sites after the menopause (P < 0·001). With increasing menopausal duration the rate of loss declined at the two forearm sites and whole body (P < 0·01). The distal forearm loss was larger than the proximal, both before and after the menopause (P < 0·01). From the forearm results we thus conclude that a slightly larger loss of trabecular than cortical bone takes place both before and immediately after the menopause. The loss of both types of bone is, however, much larger after the menopause and this rapid bone loss seems to take place throughout the skeleton.