• estrogen metabolism;
  • postmenopausal osteoporosis;
  • risk factors


Because lifelong exposure to estrogen is a strong determinant of bone mass, we asked whether metabolic conversion of estrogen to either inactive or active metabolites would reflect postmenopausal bone mineral density (BMD) and rate of bone loss. Biochemical markers of inactive estrogen metabolites, urinary 2-hydroxyestrogen (2OHE1) and 2-methoxyestrogen (2MeOE1), and active metabolites, urinary 16α-hydroxyestrone (16αOHE1), estradiol (E2), and estriol (E3), were determined in 71 untreated, healthy postmenopausal women (age, 47-59 years) followed prospectively for 1 year. Urinary 2MeOE1 was correlated negatively with baseline vertebral (anteroposterior [AP] projection, r = −0.23 and p < 0.05; lateral view, r = −0.27 and p < 0.05) and proximal femur bone density measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA; total, r = −0.38 and p < 0.01; neck, r = −0.28 and p = 0.02; trochanter, r = −0.44 and p < 0.01). BMDs of women in the lowest quartile of urinary 2MeOE1 (<15 ng/g) were significantly higher than those in the highest quartile at all skeletal sites (p < 0.05). Likewise, women in the lowest quartile of urinary 2OHE1/16αOHE1 ratio (<1.6) did not experience bone loss after 1 year, in contrast to women in the higher quartiles. We propose that the rate of inactivation of estrogens through 2-hydroxylation may contribute to postmenopausal osteoporosis.